Taekwondo (pronounced “teh kwon doh”) is a martial art that has its origins in Korea . Though Taekwondo literally means “the way of the hand and foot,” the sport relies mainly on kicks – stationary, spinning and jumping – using punches and body placement to set up its powerful kicks. A typical Taekwondo match will consist of the fakes and jabs reminiscent of boxing, a flurry of kicks that reminds one of the best of Bruce Lee’s kung fu, blocking similar to Karate, as well as the jumping, sliding and spinning heel kicks, roundhouses and back kicks that gives Taekwondo its unique power – the 40 million practioners in 142 countries are a testament to its effectiveness. Taekwondo competitions typically involve both forms and sparring.
The World Taekwondo Federation
The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), based at the Kukkiwon in Seoul, South Korea, is arguably the largest and most legitimate Taekwondo organization in the world, with over 30 million registered members. It is only the WTF form of Taekwondo that is an official Olympic sport. The WTF is represented by umbrella organizations in several countries – in the US, the United States Taekwondo Union (USTU) trains the National Team in the WTF-style, which then competes in international competitions, including the Summer Olympic games.
Harvard Taekwondo (HTKD), formerly known as the Harvard World Taekwondo Federation, was started in 1999 by six black belts looking to train in the WTF style. Harvard Taekwondo is currently the only taekwondo club on campus, as well as the largest martial arts club. We are instructed by Master Peter Lee, a 6th-dan black belt, and affiliated with Grandmaster Keun Ha Kim of Montreal, Canada. Grandmaster Kim is an 8th-dan black belt and president of the Canadian Taekwondo Association.
National intercollegiate competition
There exists a national Taekwondo collegiate league that competes in the WTF style, which hosts an annual tournament whose winners qualify for the US national team trials and a possible shot at the Olympics. Furthermore, the northeast has its own regional Taekwondo league (Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference) with over 20 participating colleges – MIT, Cornell, Brown, Tufts, NYU, Columbia, and Harvard among others all field competitive teams in the WTF style.
What are Harvard Taekwondo practices like?
We focus on several different things in our practices. We spend most of our time honing our kicks for sparring, and working on our poomse (choreographed series of movements used in competition, belt tests etc.). Kicks are usually done against paddles or heavier shields, with people on the team holding for each other, and working on drills ranging from basic roundhouse kicks to more complex combinations (double and triple kicks, spinning kicks etc.). Working on kicks is a big part of training for those who choose not to spar as well. Although many paddle drills focus on developing the speed, accuracy, power and footwork necessary for sparring style movement, these same attributes are a part of general improvements in fitness and skill. We also spend time working on fancier “trick kicks” that we use for board breaking in demonstrations and belt tests. Finally, we also have a series of self-defense movements against wrist locks, and one-step sparring situations against specific predetermined attacks that we practice for belt-tests. A typical workout might go something like this:
15min: Warm up with some footwork and calisthenics.
30min: Work some different paddle drills with rotating partners: 10 each side- roundhouse kick, fast kick, axe kick, spin hook kick, slide back double-kick
15min: Work on broken down technique: slow back kicks
20min: Work on highest poomse with others in belt group and an instructor’s help
15min: Learn 5 new self-defense/one steps
At certain practices, we focus on full contact sparring and sparring drills. While most people enjoy these practices, those who decide they do not like sparring may elect not to attend, or to sit out on sparring
Because Harvard Taekwondo is a USTA registered club and an official dojang, we do charge dues of $65 a semester. However, for students for whom these costs are prohibitive, we offer to waive fees (contact Henry at email@example.com). Furthermore, as you look to progress by testing and competing, we ask that you train at least twice a week in order to continue to develop your skills. We also ask for a certain number of tournament attendances before every belt test (note: this does not mean you have to compete, merely attending and cheering is just fine!)
A note about sparring
Like other full contact sports, sparring might seem intimidating early on. We encourage you not to let this stop you from pursuing your interest in Taekwondo! First of all, it is taught very slowly and safely. You begin by learning the movements, and spend a long time fighting against instructors who will help you by moving around and feinting, but will not hit you. Eventually, you will slowly ease into light and medium contact work against people of your level. Furthermore, if you are ever in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, you can always decline to participate in a drill or ask for a lighter alternative. Gradually, a great many people find that sparring is a lot of fun. Those who realize that it is not one of their favorite aspects of Taekwondo can train without focusing on sparring. Practices with sparring are announced in advance, colorbelt tests do not include sparring, and sparring at tournaments is always entirely voluntary.
What sorts of events beyond practice does the club participate in?
We do several things. We compete regularly. Generally, we travel as a team up to another college in the northeast. There we often
spend the night at a hotel or team members house and hit the competition early in the morning. The day normally starts with forms,
with everyone competing against their own belt groups in front of 3-5 black belt judges. After forms, sparring events take place,
beginning with black belt men and women and moving down through the different levels (color belt, lower belt etc.). The whole day
is a lot of fun — even the long drives are a good time and a fantastic bonding experience. Because of the way all belt groups are
divided and count for a school’s total points, we encourage people of all levels to compete, and, as a beginner, you have the chance
to compete against people of your level. This is true all the way until black belt.
We also participate in many demos. We perform demos for everyone from community groups to Korean associations at the various Harvard schools. These demos are usually a lot of fun to choreograph and workout. They include fancy trick board-breaks, choreographed fight scenes, often with skits, paddle kicking and just about anything else we feel might look cool. As in competitions, everyone is always invited to take part regardless of level of skill.
Finally, we have various other events throughout the year: we have plenty of parties, movie nights and social events. We have a fundraising kickathon for a charity. We have retreats with our peer team at Brown University. And we try new events every year (we’re always open to suggestions…)
How Taekwondo Differs from Other Martial Arts on Campus
Every martial arts organization on campus is a fantastic opportunity, but each is also very unique. Taekwondo has more of a sport aspect to it than many of the more traditional clubs. We spend a lot of our time traveling together as a team, cheering each other on at competition days, and seeing what other teams bring to the table. This creates a very unique and special vibe amongst members: we train hard together, go lots of cool places together and generally just have a great time. Many of our alums say that Harvard Taekwondo provided some of the best memories and longest lasting friendships of their college years. Furthermore, we really emphasize a lot of aerobic and cardio in our workouts in order to develop the conditioning needed for competitive Taekwondo.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.