My Taekwondo...
Or... What I have learned...



My youngest child recently asked me why I decided to take Taekwondo lessons in the first place. Actually, she asked, "What do you like about Taekwondo?" This was after we had finished a family workout at the dojang.

I had to think about it for a few minutes. Finally I said,

"I like my Taekwondo for what it has given me, and for what it has taken away from me."


I began to learn Taekwondo in junior high school. Not far from our home, a new school, the US Taekwondo Center, had just been opened by Grand Master Sang Chul Lee, who later coached the USA team in Teakwondo's first appearance in the Olympic games. A family friend, who had just joined the school, invited us to a demonstration by the Olympic Training Center Taekwondo team. I was fascinated by the forms, breaking, and sparring demonstrations, and wanted to take classes. I remember trying to convince my dad that I would keep my grades up if I kept on with it during the school year, and that I would contribute to the cost of the classes (which I'm not sure if I did or not). My dad let me sign up and paid the yearly tuition for me.

My high red belt testing, 1989

I usually averaged about three or four classes per week, advancing with the rest of my group. Then, when I started serious sparring at the green belt level, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to excel.

I loved the competition. I was learning how to discipline my body and my actions. While I was not ever going to be a star athlete at school (my mom says I was more into individual sports than team ones), I was getting better at all-around athletics and physical education classes.

I enjoyed pairing up with someone else at the dojang and testing my kicking abilities.

To be honest, I didn't do as well in competition as I would have liked to. I enjoyed the challenge, but I couldn't always push my skill level to the point at which I could beat my opponent. However, I also began to compete at a level that perhaps I wasn't prepared for. In high school, I completed as a black belt when I wasn't yet a black belt. I competed in several US Open tournaments, where the best fighters in the world came to compete. I went to Junior Nationals (national championships for children and youth) and then Senior Nationals (adult). However, at each competition I learned something else about myself – something that I came to appreciate later on in life.

When I was 15, I began to train with the Olympic Training Center team, a group of nationally recognized athletes who competed on national and international levels. I would leave high school (sometimes early) and go straight to Taekwondo practice. There I would have two hours of conditioning, drills, and sparring against world-class athletes. Eventually my mom (bless her heart) began to take me to the daily conditioning workouts Monday through Friday, dropping me off there at 5:45 every morning. I worked out for an hour, showered, and caught the city bus to my school. For two years I did this before-and-after-school routine, driving to the OTC myself when I was old enough.


I had issues with my ankles. A few years ago, a doctor took an x-ray of my ankles and said, "Man, your joints are messed up!" I sprained my ankles regularly while training. I dealt with it back then by taping up both ankles each day before practice and wearing a brace when I ran. I ignored the importance of letting the joint heal completely; I just wanted to keep practicing!

Me sparring at one of the national tournaments

During this time, I was still learning confidence and self-discipline. I was probably fitter (except for my ankles) than I had ever been. I wasn't a naturally gifted athlete, but I certainly was in shape. My high school held a fundraiser in which students asked for donations to show how many miles they could run. I beat the track team and the basketball team both.

I was also discovering that I loved to teach. My assignment was the kids’ class – typically students aged 5 to 11. I would teach them immediately after our team practice. Teaching was helpful in another way, too: I traded teaching for classes and did not have to pay tuition. After my practice, I would change into a fresh dobok (uniform) and work with the children.

I received my first degree black belt and continued training until it became necessary for me to earn more money. I gave up Taekwondo for a while to work in the food service industry. I still loved Taekwondo but, having had several concussions as well as ankle problems, I knew that my goal of becoming an Olympic champion wasn't going to become reality.

I went to college, where I joined the Colorado State Taekwondo club; since I was a black belt, they didn't charge me anything to work out provided I would help teach. The leaders of the club had studied under the ITF system, so I was exposed to different forms of self-defense moves, poomse (forms) and sparring techniques. I was shocked when I learned that there were no pads required for sparring since it was “no contact”... I remember thinking, "How practical is that?"

After a semester with the club, I joined a Taekwondo school in that town. Monthly payments were not feasible on a college kid’s budget, so I began to teach classes in exchange for my tuition. I soon discovered that I had not joined a very good school. Sloppy forms, poorly executed self-defense techniques, and uncontrolled sparring were the norm. Power struggles inside and outside the dojang showed me how much I didn't want to be part of this school. I eventually left, but attained my second degree black belt before leaving. (This is one of the dojangs for my "Black Belt Factory" page.)


Me acting as center referee for a local tournament.

I took another hiatus from Taekwondo until I visited Master Santos' school in Littleton, Colorado. Master Santos and I had known each other as competitors while I was competing and training at the OTC. Unhappily, after being back for a few years, I blew out my knee during sparring and again found myself sitting on the sidelines for a few years, but my three daughters participate regularly in Taekwondo classes conducted by Master Santos and his staff. I have recently restarted my training, as my work schedule allows.

The best thing about this school is the ability of the instructors to connect with students, especially children. My girls started when they were five, and currently have belts from high white up to blue. They enjoy practicing with their dad whenever we can.


So, to answer the question... why do I enjoy Taekwondo? A number of reasons:

  • It has helped me get into and stay in shape (when I have been practicing).
  • It has given me teaching skills that I apply to my career and daily life.
  • It has given me confidence and self-discipline to accomplish tasks and set goals.
  • It has given me a family activity that I can enjoy with my children, helping them gain self-defense skills, confidence and health.


Now it's your turn... why do you enjoy Taekwondo?


Now we want to hear from you...

What about Taekwondo has helped you? What has it done for you or your kids?

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