By Nishtha Shukla July 2004 Symbolising sheer agility, speed and timing, taekwondo is growing up from a mere self-defence technique to a full-fledged professional sport Just sit and watch… the visually intoxicating stunts, the gripping dynamism of the arena, the unnerving kicks and spins! Taekwondo might simply be a sport for some but for those who are in for the love of the game, it is a force to live with. Not surprising that it has become the global face of South-East Asian defence arts and is now the only martial art apart from judo that is both a traditional martial art as well as an Olympic sport. Combative, competitive, philosophical and exciting are just some adjectives that could be correlated with this art. This newly recognised martial art form was earlier called Supakhee and was officially recognised as taekwondo only in 1954. Tae is a Chinese character that literally means foot; Kwon means striking with the fist and Do represents the way—the correct path. Theories about where it originated (Korea, China, some even say India) are countless. People are still debating. The biggest problem of taekwondo being not so popular in India is that while it is taking concrete shape globally, it is a disorganised sector here. The World Taekwondo Federation, part of the Korean Kukiwon, has its branch in India. But taekwondo is also being practised by numerous other individuals and sets of people. When taekwando classes are mushrooming all over the country, it is tough to recognise the credibility of the genuine masters of the art. A sport that accepts various ideologies, philosophies and emotions, has not been understood by the people who have given the game its current muddled countenance. Says Rashid Ansari of the Delhi Taekwondo Federation: “The game is on its way to become a fully organised one. For the first time we have regular organised programmes for taekwondo.” The Taekwondo Federation of India holds classes at the Indira Gandhi National Stadium in New Delhi, making it more accessible. But for an average Indian, it has come to mean a more challenging way to fitness, of a new sport to excel, a way to self-improvement and a path to spiritual development. After its official inclusion in the Asian Games in 1974 and into the 2000 Olympiad held in Sydney, taekwondo has gained its much-deserved repute as a professional sport. School kids, women, even the handicapped are practising it. Camps and coaching classes are being held on campuses of various private and public schools. Anil Thakur, a taekwondo instructor with Delhi schools like Delhi Public School and Model School, affirms that more and more schools now want to provide taekwondo training to the children. Classes are also being held on college campuses, especially as part of self-defence training for girls. Taekwondo has therefore entered mainstream athletics with a bang, as schools and colleges want to impart this effective self-defence art to the students. India might be gearing up for bigger victories, Thakkar says. He adds: “It is not about board and tile-breaking but about keeping a target and concentrating on it. That is, to keep trying till you achieve your goal. We want to dispel the word ‘failure’ and instil a feeling of achievement amongst students.” This Korean martial art is characterised by its fast, explosive movements and beautiful and dangerous kicks. An art coming from a very ancient tradition, it is as rooted into the human element as yoga is. Developed from primitive fighting methods to the present day taekwondo, it improves one’s physical self as well as helps build speed, endurance, etc. The quick, agile movements make it a very energetic sport, ideal for our urban, lethargic lifestyle. Which is just a miniscule advantage of this very vibrant and beneficial practice. The basis of taekwondo comes from the concept of Taegeuk, derived from the I Ching, a work of constant change, which is a movement towards the life of spiritual and moral harmony. The philosophy of taekwondo is harmony with all living things and is therefore a medium for spreading the values of truth, honesty, courage, discipline, creativity, respect, compassion and duty. The emphasis here is not only on physical strength but also on the individual growth of one’s moral and spiritual self. For people living in the cities, it also provides relaxation, health benefits, including cardio-vascular fitness and a general sense of well-being. Much like any other therapy, taekwondo also soothes and calms the mind. But this is a more painful and difficult, sometimes humiliating sport. It is, therefore, bound to bring about various changes in you. Ansari says: “In traditional martial arts, it is about channelising the anger and ego to deal with one’s own shortcomings.” Mehek, a Delhi college-goer, says: “It has instilled self-confidence and discipline in me.” Taekwondo students also engage in free sparring, wearing full body armour for protection and safety that makes a student face many emotions that he has to learn to control and cope with. Taekwondo training provides a complete workout to almost every muscle in the body as each session consists of stretching to limber up and also consists of exercises such as sit-ups, squats and push-ups. It is highly aerobic in nature where students throw hundreds of kicks and punches with different kinds of jumping technique, self-defence techniques and pre-set patterns called Hyung or Poomse in Korean. Having mastered taekwondo, people can evolve their own creative pre-set patterns. An art which is close to painting and music, taekwondo is acknowledged as a form of self-expression where the Do predominates, that goes beyond the failing physicality of the body. Taekwondo is becoming popular with women of all ages who are learning this as a self-defence technique, which, in turn, instils confidence in them to take on any rogue at any time. Says Rashmi Khanna: “I was never scared of confronting miscreants in local buses but after learning taekwondo, I am more confident of handing situations.” While many schools and colleges are teaching the art to students so that they can be confident enough, many students now want to pursue it wholeheartedly, some even on a professional level. Attempts are also being made in the country to increase public awareness about taekwondo so that more and more people can join it. As this is a sport that depends heavily on agility, speed, timing and not predominantly on sheer bulk, where Indians stand a good chance. Contact: Anil Thakur, Ph: 9811136884 Rashid Ansari, Ph: 9811050976
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