Tae Kwon Do places significant emphasis on kicks and flexibility. In any school, you can find photos of students and instructors delivering kicks to the head or breaking boards held high. Younger, more flexible students may adapt quicker to some of the techniques, however, the structured program of Tae Kwon Do can benefit any individual. Tae Kwon Do is also a great choice for those who feel that strength may not be their best asset since the muscles and the reach of the legs can be a great equalizer regardless of the size of the opponent.
According to Chuck Westcott, who has been teaching Tae Kwon Do for over fifteen years and owns Chang's Martial Arts Academy, the typical class starts with a quick warm-up to loosen the joints and get the blood flowing, followed by about fifteen minutes of kibon -- basic techniques, which, for the majority, consist of kicks. Next there is usually a focus on kicking combinations, sparring and/or poomse -- a sequence of set movements (katas in other arts). Sparring can range from light touch to a full contact with sparring gear. Classes are usually concluded with a cool down and an emphasis on stretching. Classes can also incorporate concentration exercises and meditation.
Tae Kwon Do is a traditional martial art, which means that there are formal rules of conduct and courtesy that all students are expected to follow, hence its popularity amongst younger students. While most schools have a relaxed atmosphere, students wear a traditional gi -- uniform, and belt during class. Tae Kwon Do teaches the physical aspects of the art balanced with respect, discipline and self-confidence and is a great way to get into shape while learning to defend yourself.
If you think you're interested in Tae Kwon Do, take advantage of the fact that it's one of the most popular arts by finding the right school and instructor for your training - there are many to choose from. Most will offer a free introductory class. To supplement their Tae Kwon Do curriculum, keep in mind some instructors may include aspects of other arts such as weapons or grappling. Another advantage is that if you ever need to move, odds are there will be another school wherever you end up and you can easily continue your training.
So if you want to impress your friends with spinning back kicks or highflying kicks, consider Tae Kwon Do.
Mukesh Pitroda is a Chicago-area instructor in Modern Arnis with over 14 years of experience in the martial arts. For more information: Mukesh@modernarnischicago.com.