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Deconstructing Taekwon-Do

Why I Practice Taekwon-Do

We all have bad years. For me, 2006 was a tough year in my taekwon-do journey. By the time 2007 rolled around I had stopped formal training. I still dabbled from time to time, but I had no interest in finding another dojang or working toward my next black belt level.

I had my reasons. For one, I wasn’t interested in the other clubs in my area. I also realized I was becoming disillusioned with taekwon-do.

This is the art that I had dedicated my life to for years. That I had a greater passion for than anything else. And now I was wondering why I would even want to do it.

I think part of me felt betrayed—not just by my former instructors, but by taekwon-do itself. (That’s ridiculous in hindsight. Taekwon-do can’t do anything; it’s just a collection of ideas.) But I was also looking at taekwon-do in a new light.

The promise of competition had always pushed me. But I began to realize that I would never be elite. I’m OK at sparring, but I wasn’t good enough to compete with the best. I knew I was good at patterns, but I lacked the flexibility to be great. I was never big and strong enough, and lacked the jumping prowess, for breaking events. I had had my shot with pre-arranged sparring, but gave that up to regain my sanity.

I knew taekwon-do was about more than competition. But if I were looking for a way to stay in shape, there were better options. If self-defence was what I wanted, I was discovering that other martial arts were more effective than the taekwon-do I was learning, despite what my instructor had told me. I could train for rank, but why? Pursuing another black belt degree solely for the sake of the belt felt hollow. I could teach, but why inflict taekwon-do on others when I couldn’t see the value in it myself?

The questions didn’t go away with time, but I kept dabbling. I couldn’t commit to taekwon-do, but I couldn’t quit it, either. It stayed with me.

It slowly dawned on me: my reasons for training don’t have to be as specific and tangible as competition success, effective self-defence or rank. They can be simpler. They can be nebulous. I could train for reasons like “fun.” And that’s OK.

I began to see taekwon-do less as a serious martial art and competitive sport, and more as a form of recreation. It’s an activity that I like doing. I found other reasons to train as well, but fun was at the heart of all of them. And that was the reason I started training in the first place.

Taekwon-do can be many things to many people. It can be a form of recreation, a way to bond with the kids, a sport, a way to learn self-defence (as long as it’s taught well), a fun way to stay in shape, a way to meet new friends, or a host of other things. My reasons for training may not be the same as yours, but that makes them no more or less valid.

I’ve seen people fall into the same trap that I was in: looking at martial arts as serious business. They’re a way to learn to fight, or to compete, or to hope that one day you’ll discover mystical powers. Those things are fine (except for the mystical powers thing), and fighting is how martial arts started in the first place. But today they’ve become so much more than that.

So why do I practice taekwon-do? Because I love it. And that’s about all the answer I need.