BY LOGAN KELLY
Most people think Taekwondo is about punching, kicking, and fighting, but it isn’t. I thought so, too, when I started at six years old. It was fun thinking that I would learn to fight. But now that I have practiced for four years, I know the real meaning of Taekwondo is something else. It’s about being a leader, becoming confident, and not being a victim.
Being a leader is not something I started out to do. I first started as a student. My best teacher is Master Terranova. He pushes me hard, but he always makes it fun. Even on days when I’m not feeling the spirit, I go anyway and feel better afterward. It also felt good when I was asked to be on the Leadership Team. Now I get to help teach what I have learned to students of lower rank. Teaching is good for me, too. It makes my skills better when I always have to put forth my best effort, since lower-ranking students are viewing me as a role model. I also have learned to be a role model in regular life. In school, I try to respect other students who are learning by being quiet, and saying, “Yes, sir,” and “Yes, ma’am,” to both my teachers and instructors.
Encouraging other people to “do the right thing” is also an important part of leadership. Once I saw kids damaging equipment on the playground, just for fun. Because of Taekwondo, I felt comfortable asking them to stop. They did, and I think it was because they knew I was asking them to do the right thing.
What about becoming confident? It takes confidence to yell like we do in class, or to kick your partner in sparring, or to break a board. Board-breaking used to make me feel nervous about failing and being embarrassed. Now, because of practicing it in Taekwondo, it’s really fun. The secret to board breaking is not about being super strong, it’s focusing on just the right spot, and aiming your foot past the target. You have to believe you can do it! Breaking a board just right makes me feel proud. In regular life, feeling confident has helped me do some things that are hard, like learning to ride a bike, snorkeling in the ocean, and doing a 40-foot-high ropes course.
Taekwondo exercises are tough. Sparring can be a little nerve-wracking. Doing these things for years has also taught me how to be tough sometimes. It has even helped me handle some difficult situations. Once on the bus, some kids were picking on my friend. Everyone, including me, got mad. One kid started pushing my friend. My friend pushed back. I felt mad. I also knew I could hurt somebody using my Taekwondo moves. But instead, I controlled myself and used my energy to tell everyone to STOP. I put my hands out to separate my friend and the other kid. It worked. It resolved the almost-fight. I think it worked because of something we learn in Taekwondo called “indomitable spirit,” which means a never-give-up attitude. The kids around me could tell I was ready to handle whatever happened next; no one wanted to start throwing blows. Without the life skills I got from Taekwondo, I probably would have started fighting, which wouldn’t have been wise.
In Taekwondo we practice some incredible-looking moves. I’ve seen my master break a board held up nine feet in the air! We can learn to swing nun chucks around our body at high speed. My favorite move to do is called a “flying tornado kick.” But we don’t actually need to do these things in regular life. Life is more complicated. Taekwondo is really about learning leadership, confidence, self-control and indomitable spirit. It’s about how not to be a victim. It’s not even about learning to fight. I’ve learned that nothing can really beat me down, because just as in class if I fail, I will get up and try harder. It’s about learning life skills that everybody can use at every age.