Tae Kwon Do - What is it?
Students and instructors alike experience many challenges throughout their Tae Kwon Do journey. Like all instructors, I have had my disappointments concerning students as well as joy at their achievements. At the end of the day it is the responsibility of the student to elevate himself/herself with the help of the instructor, in all aspects of Tae Kwon Do.
When people visit my club and want to join, it is an experience for everybody. On the one hand, the student is probably apprehensive about joining and sometimes if the warm-up is pretty rigorous, they might be a bit put-off. However, there are no shortcuts!! It is an achievement if eventually they decide to ‘have a go’. Yes, you have to put effort into the training but everybody is nurtured and taught good basics in the beginning, which is fundamental to Tae Kwon Do. In any new group of students, there will be a cross-section of men and women, some ‘raring to go’, others still not quite comfortable with their environment, they all want to feel part of the group. Children like to feel part of the group quickly and so playing games for the small kids is fun and helps them persevere.
My experiences in teaching in such transient environments as Brussels have been interesting in meeting new people who join the club, but in other ways it was frustrating when they move or stop after so much time has been spent not only in teaching the student but also integrating them into the club. I try to encourage students to realise this is their club, and they must help build it. It is not just about the training syllabus and moving up through the different levels.
Tae Kwon Do culture
A big challenge indeed in Brussels as it is in the UK and worldwide in today’s modern societies who are racing against time. I tried to create a community spirit in Brussels, amidst the cultural diversity, in being able to speak French and English, though it was an English-speaking club and everyone including myself was very busy. I used to arrange tournaments with Welsh, Irish and Dutch clubs and seminars were held in Holland for black belt dan grade holders every month, with a summer camp training at the end of June, followed by a black belt grading.
Another aspect of Clubs in general is the image of the club. What sets our club apart is our striving for a high standard of discipline and technical ability. Most clubs produce ‘fighters’ but not ‘martial artists’. What’s the difference ? ‘Fighters’ burn themselves out eventually, ‘martial artists’ go on forever. And that is not to say they are not also good fighters.
There are many women in the martial arts and Tae Kwon Do in particular in most of Europe and elsewhere that actually work their way up and often get the same respect as the men after much dedication, though the conditions for women are not as equal still today in 2014. My recent book which has been published gives a big insight into this. One of the things I like to see in a club is people working together as a team and our club does a lot of that. I also like to see them with clean, pressed doboks (training outfit) and a willingness to learn how to conduct themselves in Tae Kwon Do, in every respect.