By Thomas Cassidy, 13
FOR NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Nearly three years ago, before I started studying Taekwondo, I was alarmingly insecure, unsure of myself, and had very poor self-image. I had, since the second grade, been under the impression that I was overweight. I was also a very angry person. Without Taekwondo, I was probably headed down a path to an eating disorder.
But I started training and gradually became stronger and grew. I also learned to show my elders the respect they deserved — which probably saved my relationship with my mother, and certainly made this phase of my life more pleasant for us both.
Now, how could one thing have accomplished that much?
Well, Taekwondo is founded upon respect and discipline. These concepts are practiced every lesson. We bow to our Masters before each activity, and we bow and say, 감사합니다, or “thank you,” after each activity. At the end of the class, we bow to our families in gratitude.
Taekwondo made me more confident, because I no longer felt I was overweight. I could see that I was growing and that I was strong. Also, I was burning more energy and felt more at peace. I had less energy to worry about things, and I also felt like I had a better perspective. I was more focused on important things.
Taekwondo is broken into three words in English, but it is one word in Korean. Tae means “foot,” “leg,” or “to step on,” Kwon means “fist,” or “fight,” and Do means “way” or “discipline.”
I think that anyone can benefit from Taekwondo, especially Western children. In school, I see so many classmates who show their teachers very little respect, and don’t even listen when they’re talking. They’re robbing themselves of a chance to learn, but they’re also robbing their classmates of the same thing. I see these same kids speak to their parents in unbelievably disrespectful ways, and show very little gratitude for the things that they have been given.
Taekwondo teaches you the value of respect and gratitude.
Even though physical fitness is an important component of Taekwondo, respect and honor and discipline are even more important aspects. Master Kim, of Kim’s White Tiger Taekwondo, emphasizes in every lesson: Mind, Body, Focus. He helps us to put all these together to make us healthier and stronger in every way — in our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
For this reason, Taekwondo is becoming very well known for helping kids with ADHD and ADD. They do better in school and at home. But it is shown that it helps everyone do better in school and at home. Kids who take Taekwondo get better grades. I can personally attest to the fact that it has made me a much better student. I take my studies more seriously and care very much about excelling. The masters I work with put a very strong emphasis on schoolwork.
Taekwondo has been around a long time. It is an ancient art and the earliest records of it go back to 50 BCE. The Hwarang warriors are said to be the ones who developed Taekwondo and spread its teachings.
Taekwondo teaches its students respect, which frankly most people of my generation sadly does not know, and needs to learn. It also teaches what it means to have good character. Taekwondo places an emphasis on doing the right thing and being kind and patient with other people.
Every week, there is a different “Black-belt Life Skill” word. Before every class begins, we meditate on and talk about that word. The words are different every week: Mercy, Thankfulness, Respect, Temper Management, Focus, etc. As we meditate on these words and better understand the concepts, we try to figure out ways to incorporate them into our lives. All these things deliver positive messages and help us build good character. I think it’s especially good for smaller children to begin to think about these ideas.
I am 13 and testing for my first degree Black Belt. I feel like I’m accomplishing something and that makes me feel good about myself. But I also know that I’m just beginning this quest to incorporate the values and lessons of Taekwondo into my life. There are still times when I don’t succeed at being kind to my sister or being respectful to my mother and aunt. I have a lot of work to do in perfecting the skills and controlling my temper. But I’m learning and I have goals for myself.
I’m grateful that different cultures have come together in America, to teach and guide people. America is a young country and it has a lot to learn from countries and cultures that are so much older. I think we all benefit when we try to learn the wisdoms of other cultures. (end)
Thomas Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com.