Tae Kwon Do dragon champion


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.

I was inside the TKD head quarters over in Seoul, South Korea.

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.

one inside the other

As I stated before TKD is more than just the world wide Kukkiwon umbrella. There are studios or "Dojo's" in Korean. These TKD schools are what bring together the world wide Martial Art. Studios are owned by WTF (world taekwondo federation) certified Masters. To become a WTF certified master you have to have been a 5th degree black belt. But becoming a 5th degree is not as easy as a non-taekwondo student thinks. To become a 1st degree you must have three years of training from the day you got your first belt to the day you test. From degree to degree you must train the amount of years the degree you are getting. For example if you were testing from a 2nd degree to a 3rd degree you must wait and train for three years according to the WTF regulations. If the studio is a WTF regulated it goes off the rules and regulations set by the Head Quarters. The community under the WTF umbrella that I am under is named Dragon Champion.

Dragon Champion

Black belt testing with Grand Master Kim and Head Master Lee. 2015

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.

Head Master Lee, Master Williams, Instructors Will W, Steven, Sarah P, Adrian K, and Matt M.

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

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.

Rylee breaking the board with a jumping turning side kick.


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 Team

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.

"My favorite memory in TKD is when I got invited to the Demo Team. This is how I got better in my skills and got to be apart of something. I met a lot of kind people and made many friends, some who I'm still friends with now." Rlylee, 2nd degree.
"A master who is long gone and I don’t remember his name was teaching my front snap kick and I couldn’t get it. And he kept working with me. I also like hanging out with my friends at competitions." Hayden, 2nd degree
"My favorite memory is when Hayden tested for his first degree black belt. It was an emotionally charged day. You, Sarah were going off to college, Will was retiring for a while, Master Kim was there. When Master Kim tied the black belt around Hayden he began to cry, you were crying, Will was crying. Everyone was shedding tears of emotional joy and it was a special moment to know that this was a special group of people achieving great things and making incredible memories." - Hayden's Mom.
"Watching all these kids grow, some have been with Rylee since the beginning when she was 8. Traveling to competitions with the other TKD families, great social/bonding time for the kids and parents." - Rylee's Mom.

It'll never be over

As you see Dragon Champion is a community just like any other. The way you feel when you walk into the doors of DC are always the same. Loving and Caring. You spend time with people who you know will always be there for you when times get tough. Many students are now best friends outside of the studio and have unbreakable bonds. Just the same as the parents, the demo team parents enjoy a nice meal together every thursday while the kids are practicing. Times will get tough but it's okay because you have those friends to help you through it all. I am more than happy to be apart of something bigger than myself. It is a place where no matter where I go, I will always return back to. Dragon Champion is not just students I teach, not just a team I am on, it's a family that I will forever call home.

My Reflective

Writing this final was a emotional roller coast ride. At times it made me very sad thinking about all the people who I have met and my Grand Master who no longer teaches anymore. Then it became stressful trying to find sources to go with my essay because it is mostly personal knowledge and personal sources. But I can say that there was a feeling of joy hearing what different students had to say about Dragon Champion. Along with their parents. As I stated I have been with the same school for majority of my life, it's not just a sport to me anymore, it has became a lifestyle. Even being away for college I try my best to stay in touch with the team and parents. I will visit every time I am home and if there's a competition on a weekend where I am free I normally get in my car or drive to where ever it is to help coach for Dragon Champion. This essay has made me closer than I already am and it's something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. All of the photos are my own photos, the same with all the videos expect for the one. Dragon champion means the world to me and I don't think that will ever change.

Photo Essay

These last photos are just a few of the hundreds that I have. Over the years I have spent most of my life inside the four walls of Dragon Champion. It was more than just a placed I worked everyday and the students who I taught. It's much more than words can describe. It is where parents come up to you saying that their child talks about us at home and how much they enjoy being in class with us. Or just the small things like when kids made me goodbye cards a week before I left for college. Being in such a great studio you forget that you are in a big community like TKD. You meet friends who are the only ones who understand what it feels like to get a bruise in a weird place because of sparring. Hayley and Autumn are two girls who I have only know for a couple years now, they go to a partner studio named Han's TKD. Even though we were two different logo's on our uniforms it doesn't change our friendship, they are two people who I would not want to trade in for anybody else. My photo essay also includes photos of when I had the priviledge to teach over in South Korea for a little while. With the big language gap those students had major respect for me as an instructor because we all spoke the language of Tae Kwon Do.

In the van on our way to perform at the Korean Festival
Me with a fellow instructor I worked with while I was in Korea.
A card students signed and gave to me before I left for College
More instructors I worked with in Korea
Three of my students who are now black belts
Long day for our team on competition day.
one of the classes I had the pleasure of teaching in Korea
Playing around after practice
Me with Yu Ha, the masters daughter
They through me a birthday party.
A day at the amusement park with students.
Jehoo, my favorite student to teach and watch grow up. He is also pictured above.
My baby Jason
Two of my best friends in TKD
Adrain, Will and I dressed up for halloween at the TKD

Annotated Bibliography

Scott, Steve, F. M. Kozub, and Kenta Goto. "Tae Kwon do for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder." Palaestra, vol. 21, no. 1, Winter, 2005., pp. 40-43,60http://muezproxy.marshall.edu:2135/docview/213225403?accountid=12281. " Michah's parents enrolled him in Tae Kwon Do class at their local YMCA. Michah is a boy who has austim. He wasn't able to do many sports because of this and they thought tae kwon do would end up the same way. The instructor who helped Michah name was Alyse, she was very patient with him and helped him with every move and kick. One day Alyse suggested to his parents that he should join regular classes. With hesitation they enrolled him and with their surprise his first day of classes went well. None of the children saw him as a kid with autsim. Tae Kwon Do addresses three main issues related to common characteristics in many autistic children. It helps with processing information, tacticile defensiveness, and social problems. Children with autism benefit from TKD in those aspects."

Scott, Steve F., F . M. Kozub and Kenta Goto Tae Kwon Do for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, vol. 21, Sagamore Publishing, Urbana, 2005. "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."

“Instructors - Dragon Champion Tae Kwon Do Academy.” Dragon Champion Tae Kwon Do Academy, Kang Yoo Lee, www.dragonchampion.com/instructors/. " shows all of the masters and the instructors inside Dragon Champion. With out these people dragon champion would not have an heart beat. It would just be a studio full of kids. It takes much training and patients to be a Master and Instructor because you do deal with many children on a daily basis. At all age groups."

“World Taekwondo Headquarters.” World Taekwondo Headquarters, www.kukkiwon.or.kr/front/pageView.action?cmd=%2Feng%2Finformation%2Fhistory_taekwondo. "The history of Tae Kwon Do is important in order for you to fully connect with the sport mentally. Starting back in 2333 B.C. it was developed during the Three Kingdoms period. In the 60's the Korean martial arts was not allowed to be practiced because of the regulations against that activity and the policies of the Japanese Gov't. Kukkiwon was founded by the Korea TaeKwonDo Assocation on Nov 30th, 1972. The Tae Kwon Do we know today is now an official olympic sport. With over 80 million practitioners through out the world."

* Burke, D. T., et al. "Effect of Implementation of Safety Measures in Tae Kwon do Competition." British journal of sports medicine, vol. 37, no. 5, 2003., pp. 401-404doi:10.1136/bjsm.37.5.401. " In any sport there is always a possibility of getting injured. Over 2 million people in the United States participate in Tae Kwon Do. Head and neck are the most common injuries during TKD. Most of these injuries are from what is called sparring, it is when two people fight each other for the gold medal. Even though studies show that the rate of injuries in tae kwon do is significantly lower than a lot of the other national sports. Even though not all athletes were evaluated for injury after competition which could easily be the reason why the rates are to low. However TKD takes sparring safety very seriously, and takes precaution with an inspection of the safety gear by the middle judge before every match."

* Richardson, Lara. "Get Your Kicks! be in the Know about Tae Kwon do." New Moon, vol. 13, no. 2, 2005., pp. 12. " Lara is a student of tae kwon do studio. And she loves it. Her father practices it and she always thought the kicking, fighting and breaking boards looked exciting. When Lara had her first class she was so excited she wore her full white dobok with the white belt. All first classes are nerve racking, and her instructor was there to help through the steps of how classes would go. She was not prepared to memorize all of the history and techniques. Lara loved going to tournaments where students go against other students from other schools. Practicing tkd has helped Lara in school like her memorization. Also being in TKD has made her more confident in herself."

www.kukkiwon.or.kr/front/pageView.action?cmd=%2Feng%2Finformation%2Fhistory_taekwondo. "Demo team's are now an essential part of TKD. It not only shows the techniques of the sport but it also lets the indiviuals on the team show people what they themselves are capable of doing. The dragon champion demo team has been around for as long as the school has been open. It was not always as big as it is now, but even with the small amount of students it was a very powerful team just like the one we have today. The performance's by the students are not learned over night. Our team trains at a high standard by our Master and practices hard each week in order to perform flawless routines at events and competitions."

“Taegeuk Poomse Symbolism.” Turtle Press, www.turtlepress.com/training/taegeuk-poomse-symbolism-1. " Tae Kwon Do forms are each unique. They also build off one another as the level of belt ranking goes up. On this site it tells you the meaning of each Poomse. Each one has their own symbolism. For example, the second form out of the eight forms is called "taegeuk EE jang", tae meaning river, it is practiced to show inner strength and external gentleness. Taeguk phal jung is the last form you learn before earning your black belt, it shows the perfection of all the basic TKD skills and maturity of character in the goal, it means the spirit of humbleness."

“What Is Taekwondo?” Team USA, www.teamusa.org/usa-taekwondo/v2-getting-started-in-taekwondo/what-is-taekwondo. " TKD is a martial art that uses your fists and feet, it is also used as in a way to control or come down fights with peace. It can be characterized by unity: the unity of body, mind and life. TKD is also similar to other martial arts from other oriental countries like Japan or China. TKD is a lifestyle for most people, just like having a job, raising a family. Tae Kwon Do is not just a physical sport but it is also a mental sport that you can use in your everyday life."

* Rabello, Lucas M., et al. "Comparison of Postural Balance between Professional Tae Kwon do Athletes and Young Adults." Fisioterapia e Pesquisa, vol. 21, no. 2, 2014., pp. 139-143doi:10.1590/1809-2950/45021022014. " There was a study between Tae kwon do athletes and non tae kwon do athlete adult group about their postural. They participated in several balance test along with familiarizing themselves with the equipment and the protocols."

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