To understand taekwondo better we invite Daryna Kot, a senior proponent of this martial art, and holder of a first dan black belt to give us some hints on where to start, and discover there is more to taekwondo than combat and self-defence but a whole philosophy.
A Message And A Warm-Up
We meet Kot in Kiki Boxing Gym when she’s already dressed in her taekwondo kit known as the dobok. She took up the martial art at age 13. Since then, she has passed all tests for colour belts, 10 in total, and achieved her first master’s black belt. But there are still nine left to get to the top – these ranks are called dan, also referred to as “black belts” or “degrees” (as in “third dan” or “third-degree black belt”).
Kot believes she is a role model and has a message for youth. “I always wonder why people my age are sitting on benches drinking beer and smoking when they can live a healthy life. I’m not saying they should pick up taekwondo specifically, as there are so many other ways to keep fit.”
Kot shows us some moves, but gives us a quick warmup so as not to injure ourselves from the outset. Kot says it doesn’t matter whether you start from the top (your head) or from the bottom (your legs), rotary moves work well – so do 10 –20 rotations for every joint of your body. Jumping and running works even better, as both boost blood circulation. Be careful with stretching though: start slowly applying medium strength so that you don’t tear any muscles. Warming up for 15–20 minutes should be enough but if you feel like it you can do even more.
Taekwondo For Dummies
The first move Kot teaches us is the Horseman Position and upper block. To balance properly in this position make sure your knees are positioned so that your toes are hidden and your back is straight. The upper block protects you from the blows directed at the upper body.
The next stance newbies have to learn is the Wide Position. This is the most stable position in taekwondo, as it allows you to shift balance from one leg to the other and freely move in four directions. Add to this a fist punch to your assailant’s solar plexus and you are a perfect attacking weapon. The position allows you to add pelvic rotation to the punch making it more powerful. It’s important the punch be straight for maximum power.
The third stance is a non-combat position called the Crane Position. This one belongs to the master’s (black belts) and is focused on balancing on one leg. The position can be used for blocking two strikes: one coming from above and for example a low kick.
The next block Kot shows us is a Double Block in Horseman Position. It uses one hand to block a kick or punch and the second to protect against a strike coming from behind.
Kicks are important in taekwondo as 60% of attacks are made with the legs. The first one Kot shows us is a basic kick where you hit your opponent with the ball of the foot aiming for the chin, chest or stomach. The hard thing here is to stretch the foot straight while curling the toes upward. The second one is the sidekick that covers an even wider area. With this you can strike your opponent from the head and down to the knees.
The Tiger Position is next up. It’s tough and usually reserved for masters, because you are basically standing on one leg with the second ready to strike. In this position you can block incoming blows with your palm.
The next position is good for blocking where if the lead hand fails to deflect a blow the second is always kept at your solar plexus protecting it.
Fight Or Flight
Moves, positions and strikes are not enough to be a good at taekwondo. To become a good sportsman you have to learn to control yourself and follow the ideology of the martial art. Kot explains: “When you know how to attack, you need to think twice about whether you should get into a fight or not as one wrong move can cause serious injury to your opponent.”
At every training, students of taekwondo have time to think about this while meditating, something that helps them to focus and relax at the same time. It is how we round out our time with Kot, the last lesson of the day, and gets us ready to take in the tournament in town this upcoming weekend.
Taekwondo Kyiv Open Cup
19 –21 September
Kukkiwon Team Performance (KR, martial art tricks)
20 September at 12.00
Sport Complex of KPI University (Polyova 38/1)
by Vadym Mishkoriz