These days, we as people love bite-sized information. We love soundbites, we want highlights, we like reading top-ten lists. So when someone asks me “what IS Taekwondo,” giving some long-winded initial answer doesn’t always work. I could be cheeky and say “Taekwondo is a martial art!” But the truth of the matter is, the correct answer is “Taekwondo is what you make of it.”
This truth can be applied to many elements in our lives. Taekwondo is no exception. It may sound like a banal platitude, something that should be on a $5.00 motivational poster. That doesn’t make it untrue though. What you put into the martial art is what you will get out of it. How much you want to get out of Taekwondo is entirely up to you.
Some individuals come into a martial art like Taekwondo and expect the experience to magically sculpt them into Bruce Lee. Showing up to the dojang is no different than showing up to English 101. Getting there is just the first step. And simply showing up to your college courses won’t guarantee you a diploma.
Taekwondo is about how much focus you want to put into it. There are multiple variables that come into play, different ingredients to the recipe. For example:
● Deliberate Practice
● Mental state of being
Nutrition is often ignored by people. It doesn’t matter how much you exercise if you’re putting the wrong fuel in your body. Your body is a machine, and it will run as well as the fuel supplied. Want a well-oiled engine that’s ready to go when class begins? Keep a consistently healthy diet that applies moderation and common sense. Give up the soda and coffee, drink more water. I’m willing to bet most people walk into the dojang dehydrated and they don’t even realize it.
Deliberate Practice is an idea that focusing upon specific elements will greatly enhance performance. For example, Peyton Manning will not simply continually play football as practice. He will pick specific throws and practice throws over and over until he has the results he likes. When game-time comes and that throw is presented, he’s capable of making that throw instinctively because of the deliberate practice he put in outside of the game.
Taekwondo is no different. Simply running through a form over and over won’t do you any good if you’re striving to make your form look better. Deliberately practice specific moves with emphasis on the different elements of each technique until it’s ingrained in your head. Want to make that knife hand strike look perfect? Focus on it, from beginning position to ending position, hips, and more. Pick something deliberate and focused and repeat it. From this, you will see vast improvement (and better time spent!).
Exercise is a huge part of martial arts. Don’t depend on Taekwondo to get you in shape and keep you there. Take some kickboxing classes, hit the gym, take walks and get in 10,000 steps each day. The exercise you put in will show up in class with better technique due to less fatigue. If you’re into sparring, being in better shape can carry you the distance at a tournament. And don’t forget: as a black belt, ATA requires you to take the fitness test!
Mental State of Being is all about your attitude when you bow onto the floor, when you practice, when you exercise, etc. Are you day-dreaming? Do you really want to be there? Or, are you ready to sweat and practice! It’s all about the attitude you bring. Remember that the dojang is your opportunity to leave behind whatever is stressing you out. Imagine an invisible force field that exists in the dojang. The moment you pass through that force field, all your troubles are stopped and cannot follow you. This is your time to be worry-free and focus on kicking bags, working on technique, and enjoying your time. Bring a healthy attitude!
Dedication needs little explanation, but it’s just as important and really underlines everything here. If your level of dedication is low, you won’t be willing to put in the time. This is your chance, your opportunity to really do something extraordinary. Dedicate yourself to this! It’s your time, your energy, don’t waste it. Dedicate yourself to improvement, to working out, and seeing the results.
Taekwondo is all about what you make of it. If you make it a leisurely pastime, then you’ll see the results that come from that. If you make it a dreary experience, you’ll likewise see those results. Approach Taekwondo with a can-do attitude and a willingness to grow and you’ll see just what Taekwondo can be.
Cliff Woodward, 1st Degree Black Belt, IT Manager, Instructor Trainee.