My taekwondo experience: the martial art that laid the foundation for who I am today

Joanna Paje, Staff Writer

When people hear that I am a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, I always laugh at the shock on their faces when they take in the information. It is funny that I have a tendency to downplay just how hard I worked for my rank, and every time I remember just how difficult it was, I shock myself.

I trained in Taekwondo at Victory Martial Arts at a young age and learned a large variety of life lessons; respect, honesty, self-esteem and communication are only a few of the things I had to memorize. Taekwondo made me feel impossibly strong — it made me faster, smarter, and it made me want to be the superhero I thought I could never be. It filled me with a confidence that made me feel like I was on cloud nine, and I took that attitude with me into my adult years. The virtues I learned there kept me alive and it kept me resilient; I have never been more thankful for such a sport.

One thing that I grew to understand only years after I quit is that this style of martial arts has become incredibly competitive over the years. When I trained, sparring matches were held nearly every day and local tournaments would be hosted at our school. We would compete in subcategories like forms, sparring and board-breaking. Our sparring matches would be observed by high-ranking people and their judgment alone, but nowadays, technology has been installed so that contact to the chest or head is detected by a machine, and the proper points are given. I never had the luxury of experiencing such sophisticated technology, but it is great to hear that talented martial artists will be getting the points they deserve during matches.

On statewide tournament days, hundreds of students would gather into one huge venue to compete against each other based on school and district. There, they would compete in the aforementioned subcategories and finish with a brutal physical test. 25 push ups, 25 sit ups, 40 kicks on one leg and 40 on the other, a mile run on scorching hot concrete in the middle of a Texas summer — all of these were standard. During national competitions, however, the scores would be around the nineties — sometimes even the hundreds — if you were fast or strong enough. The worst part about it was the fact that this test took place immediately after we spent hours sparring, performing and breaking boards.

Taekwondo was brutal, and it was so beautiful. Never before have I felt more alive. Even now, as I train and study Kung Fu, nothing compares to my glory days as a show dog for Victory Martial Arts. I love what I do as a martial artist and I would not trade it for anything else. Even though I run every day, lift at the gym and dance in any open studio I can find, the thrill of being a high-ranked martial artist still courses through my veins.

I highly recommend the vast world of martial arts to anyone that has ever thought about joining or considered committing to a sport. It is so much more than just a way to fight: it teaches wonderful life lessons and it shapes you into a much stronger and resilient person. I would not be who I am without it, and honestly, if I could do it all again, I would.

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