When someone hears the word community they instantly think of neighborhood, schools, or churches. But what about the other communities that are alive and well. For example, hunting, baseball, painting, or singing. Communities aren't always in plain site. The community I belong to is one that I will never leave or abandon. My community is the Tae Kwon Do community. Tae Kwon do or TKD for short is a world wide community but it has communities inside itself from the studios, to the bond inside the studios.
feet, hand, disipline
Tae(foot) kwon(hand) do(disipline) is one of the oldest martial arts. The Korean martial arts faded during the late Gojoseon Dynasty, the first state on the Korean Peninsula, B.C 2333. Kukkiwon is the head federation located in Seoul, South Korea. TKD became a demonstration sport at the 24th Seoul Olympics, and this became a milestone to spread TKD world wide. It became an official Olympic sport at the 103rd IOC Assembly in Paris, France. TKD is now a international martial art in over 203 countries, and includes 80 million practitioners.
Dragon Champion is a studio in Charlotte, NC that has been around for more than 15 years. It was started by a Grand Master from South Korea, who has since retired. He signed the studio over to a well deserved Master who has been teaching at Dragon Champion for a couple years before owning the place. Master Kang You Lee is now the owner and head master of dragon champion. Talking to Master Lee for this project he said that "Dragon Champion is his life, family and job." Dragon Champion is home to hundreds of students. This is a place where kids and adults come two or three times a week for practice and seeing the same people at your level.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is family, because we've all been together for so long and have become so close that we are like family. Dragon Champion is like a 2nd home for me." - Rylee S, 2nd Degree Black Belt.
The masters and instructors.
Inside every studio there are masters along with their instructors. These are the people that make a studio a studio. Without any of them there would just be a studio with kids. Head master lee, 6th degree, and Master Williams, 5th degree, are the soul of Dragon Champion. They are also Kukkiwon certified Masters. They are the ones who set the schedule for each class and is to be taught. The instructors are the ones who work under the masters who help teach students daily. Becoming an instructor is not easy. You have to be able to handle kids in all circumstances, on top of that you need to know tae kwon do from the inside to out. Knowing all of the kicks, forms, etc by heart will help you become apart of us instructor's. Now becoming a Master takes years of hard work in tae kwon do and must be a 5th degree black belt.
David Cholger started Tae Kwon Do when his son was just six years old. Tae Kwon Do is a korean based martial arts sport. Cholger and his son Martin have now been training Tae Kwon Do, TKD for short, for seventeen years now. Now fourth degree black belts they are both instructors on week nights at their school in Angola, Ind. TKD is an characterized as fast, high, and spinning kicks. Cholger and his son, Martin, bring two different strengths to the sport. In other words Martin the son brings high energy and advanced techniques to the floor compared to his father who is older. As years go by Martin passed his father in rank which is typical in this sport when technique is a high factor. Cholger is now 86 years old and still teaching three times a week and also trains on his own free time.
" As we teach them they learn gentleness, kindness, respect, honor and obedience. Self-motivation. Try to in steal in students life is about choices. How we choose to speak to others. How we care and how we respect one another." - Master Williams, 5th degree black belt.
"I wish they would take manners, answering yes'sir/ma'am, no'sir/ma'am. Self defense whenever they are put in such a situation, and to also have self confidence inside their selves. " -Instructor Matt, 3rd degree black belt.
It is true what Cholger was saying about him and his son having two separate techniques. The same with dragon champion, not all of us have the same strengths but when it came down to teaching we all had the same mindset and goal was to teach our students and give them lessons where they don't only succeed inside the studio but outside in the real world as well.
" I want my students to be able to stand on their own two feet against's life's obstacles." - Instructor Adrian, 1st degree black belt.
Goes beyond just the masters and instructors
Parents have a big part of a students success inside the sport. Every week there are more than just the kids there all the time, the parents are there too sitting on the sidelines watching you or talking with the other parents. I took some time to talk to some of the parents of students about what made them put their child into TKD. Most of the answers were similar to one another. This is a parent of a student who I have known since he started. This was her response to why she place her on into TKD. "I enrolled Hayden in TKD for a few reasons: at the time there was a show on Disney Channel that was about a martial arts studio and the kids in it, Kickin’ It!. Hayden really enjoyed the show and expressed an interest in wanting to learn. I also knew about Dragon Champion because my good friend, Sandie, who is Korean, had her child enrolled from a young age. I knew this was a good studio. Hayden had tried soccer when he was younger and didn’t enjoy it, he had tried baseball and wasn’t a fan. He was not a very “sporty” child. Not that he didn’t enjoy running and being active, he did very much, but didn’t seem coordinated enough in his own body to control all the functions needed for those type of sports eye contact, catching, running, focus, everything all together. He may have also been a bit apprehensive about being hurt. Hayden broke his arms four times by the time he was seven, beginning at three years old. His right arm three times and his left once. We hoped that TKD would help him in learning how to control his body. It has!!" There's no better answer that shows what TKD has done for students.
Gold, Silver, or Bronze
With the help from Masters, Instructors, and their parents. Students become competitors on weekends when we have competitions. Competitions are where students can show off their knowledge and skill. During competitions students go against other students from different schools who all are going for the same gold medal or trophy. In competition there are four ways you can receive an individual medal. Forms, board breaking, weapons, and sparring. Then as a team you could win a big trophy in a demo performance competition. Many times we all travel to different states in order to compete.
Every belt has their own form they have to learn. Which different techniques and level of difficulty increases as your belt rank goes up. In competitions, judges look for the power you put into each move, the sharpness of the techniques, and they are watching to see if you know it by heart and not have to think about the next move. Judges won't hesitate to deducted points off your score if they see a mistake or one sloppy move.
Board breaking is similar to forms when it comes to the difficulty of how you break the boards depending on your belt rank. Judges take points off of black belts doing a blue belt technique or if you miss the board.
This category is not at every competition but when it is, the talent that shows up is impressive. The judges will look for how well you use the weapon of choice and if you are able to control the weapon it's self in a professional manner. Weapons range from swords to bostaffs and everything inbetween.
Sparring is one of the most exciting and nerve raking part of every competition. The masters who are the head of the competition pair students from different schools together by their belt rank, age, and weight/height. This part of the competition that is in the Olympic's. The two competitors go head to head in a fighting match with protective gear. According to Br J sports med says that there are injuries that occur when sparring from head to knee injuries. If you are trained correctly and have control of your movements then there were will be less chances for you to get an injury.
"In the beginning I was nervous of her getting hurt. Now I feel completely at ease because I know she has been taught properly. She has become a strategic thinker." - Rylee's Mother
Demo teams are the hearts of every studio. Well I know it is for Dragon Champion. The demo team is an accumulative team of well talented students in the sport who go to events and perform routines in front of audience's. Routines are made by the Master and sometimes the captains of the team, then the team in a whole will practice once or twice a week in order to memorize the routine and perform it flawlessly. However, in competitions the stacks are higher when it comes to demo performances. Judges will look at the cleanness of the performance, as well as how individuals break their boards during the performance, and if we looked like a team.
If you walked into Dragon Champion on any certain day and you asked someone "what does Dragon Champion mean to you?" You will get a lot of the same answers from numerous of people some say friendship, but if you would ask a student or parent who has been apart of DC for years they will tell you that it is their second home and family. In February I, Sarah Popp, will be with Dragon Champion for 16 years. I have received my 3rd degree black belt and plan to keep moving forward. Being at a place for so long you tend to make life long friends and many memories. Me personally I have two memories that will always stick with me.
One of the memories is when my mom and I years ago were both in TKD together and would take classes together. I remember after every colored belt testing we did, I would run to her giving her a big hug. Then when it was her turn, we tested different days due to age groups, I was always there sitting on the sideline thinking I was helping her by whispering certain things to her when she was up on the floor. Knowing now that I never had to do that because she obviously knew what she was doing and did not need the help from her 5 year old daughter.
My second favorite would have to be the day my mini me finally received her 3rd degree black belt. My mini me is Victoria, she started when she was four years old and I would have been about ten years old at the time. Her and I instantly became attached to one another. Throughout the years we became closer, to where we finally just started telling people we were sisters because we acted like it. Inside and outside the studio. Well the day had finally come last year for her to test for her 3rd degree, a belt that takes eight years to reach, it was her turn. That day I was one of the instructors helping with the testing by holding the boards and targets. After a couple of hours the testing portion had come to an end and it was time for everyone who passed(everyone always passes) to get their new uniform if they tested for their first degrees and also their new belts. I had the privilege to hand every student their new uniform, meaning i was up front where everyone could see us. It was time to give the three people their new 3rd degree black belts. Victoria was the last one to be called and as soon as Master Lee called her name I had a flood of emotions rush to me and my eyes started to tear up. I said to myself that I had to keep it together, do not cry. Mini me walked up to Master lee got her new belt with three stitched gold bars on it tied around her waist. I looked back to her mother, a women who I call Mama D and is like a mother figure to me, started to cry and that's what did me in. Tears came out of my eyes like waterfalls, at that moment I had feelings of happiness, excitement, and most importantly I was proud. The years yelling "go mini me" and watching her improve in TKD paid off for her. I was the one giving her her new uniform, professionally I was just supposed to bow and hand it to her. But I broke instruction and I gave her a hug telling her that I loved her. These two memories will always be in my heart forever.