Friday, November 9, 2012

The Benefits of Taekwondo for Women

By Rob Sarche, M.D., purple belt

Women in Martial Arts
Martial arts are systemized forms of self-defense designed to train the body, mind and spirit.
Taekwondo is the millennia old Korean martial art which developed from a rich history and tradition, and is thriving today as the most practiced martial art in the world.  The benefits to participants are myriad and can be enjoyed by all individuals regardless of  age, gender, social, ethnic or religious backgrounds.  These benefits extend well beyond the Dojang (the Taekwondo practice hall), and permeate many other realms of the participants life.  Women participants receive unique benefits from the practice of Taekwondo.  This form of self-defense will strengthen and expand her abilities to deal with the unique challenges that women may face in our society. Those benefits include knowledge of practical self defense, empowerment, improved self-esteem, self-confidence, fitness, stress relief, community, and improved awareness.

The first lesson in Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo includes the introduction of “Ho-Shin”, which is the concept of “self-control, before self-defense”.  MSK Taekwondo instruction includes fostering appropriate decision making in order to assure participants use their skills as a means of self defense, and not aggression.  Students will gain the ability to protect themselves, as well as the confidence to do so.  The best form of self-defense stems from broadened awareness of threat, advance preparation and recognition of potential danger, and avoidance of situations that create vulnerability.  The lessons of MSK Taekwondo are replete with the physical skills of self-defense, but more importantly, there is an emphasis on how to avoid having to use those skills.

In the process of developing the ability to defend themselves, women will increase their self-confidence and know that they have the power to defend themselves, and through such confidence will decrease their likelihood of becoming a victim. Perpetrators are deterred by the self-confidence and strength emanating from those students who become empowered to protect themselves against victimization.  In the beginning students will start to develop their “kihap”, which is their powerful yell while executing both defensive blocks and offensive strikes.  In the process of learning the kihap, participants learn to show their strength and confidence through this vocalization, which is a strong deterrent to a would-be assailant, as well as an essential call for help.  The kihap is a release of ever-growing spirit and strength in the MSK Taekwondo student, and a symbol of the self-confidence that is shown by the woman who can, and will defend herself, if the situation calls for it.  The confidence to act from one’s strength and knowledge to defend one’s self may end a struggle before it even begins, but should the actual self-defense skills actually be needed, the student will have the confidence to decisively protect herself.

Learning MSK Taekwondo will help increase the student’s awareness in many ways. Self defense training entails an eye-opening awareness of ones strengths and challenges.  Learning self-defense in the form of MSK Taekwondo helps increases cultural awareness, imparting the ancient Korean traditions of the martial art. Awareness of one’s environment increases, and participants are much more likely to recognize and avoid potentially threatening situations.  The process of learning MSK Taekwondo will bring safety issues to the forefront of the student’s mind in an empowering way that alleviates fears and anxieties, rather than create them.

Self-esteem grows from vanquishing perceived vulnerabilities and replacing them with known and proven abilities from one’s ever-increasing strengths as nurtured by MSK Taekwondo.  Self-esteem not only grows from the empowerment that women realize as their martial arts skills increase, but also from the “fringe” benefits.  The participant feels pride in her growing skills, as well as her strengthening body, mind and spirit.

Studying Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo, unlike the study of many other disciplines, relieves stresses upon students, rather than adding to them.  Though their is a cognitive agenda and a body of knowledge that students will learn, the physical aspect and requirements create an avenue for the student’s stresses to be managed and released.  Taekwondo requires a focus of the mind and spirit that blocks out stresses from daily life and  the student’s academic endeavors.  As one focuses on the physicality of the martial arts, one’s mind is turned away from their stress and is forced to focus on the task at hand, which is enjoyable, healthful and empowering.

The health aspects of MSK Taekwondo go well beyond the stress relief, and exceed the health benefits of many other forms of exercise.  For some students it may add exercise to an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.  The benefits include increasing strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, injury prevention, and coordination.  Posture is improved, as well as breathing control, and essential core-strengthening.  The coupling of learning new concepts and skills, with the physicality of MSK Taekwondo, expands the mind like learning music, new languages or participating in the arts.  There is nothing mundane or routine about learning self-defense skills in Taekwondo while strengthening the body. It is never a dreaded or dutiful task, like a jogging on a treadmill may be.  The student anticipates the classes with fervor and enjoys the benefits of the extremely well-rounded fitness activity that is the study of MSK Taekwondo.  The expert instructors impart their specialized knowledge of martial arts with an effective, time-proven, self-defense system that reduces the participants risk of injury and accidents.

The practice of MSK Taekwondo will help nurture the student’s sense of community, as she endeavors with fellow students in a non-threatening environment.  She will be able to leave any insecurities she may have at the door as she partners with other women in learning Taekwondo.  The activity is uniquely social for the student, creating lasting friendships, and garnering social responsibility among the other women who take advantage of the empowerment that self-defense training imparts.  Leadership skills are honed as participants express and understand creative, cooperative and even aggressive behaviors, and channel them in healthy ways.

The discipline required to learn MSK Taekwondo grows, as does the focus of the mind of the participant.  MSK Taekwondo students become more focused and disciplined in other areas of their lives as a result of their personal growth through learning the martial art. Taekwondo is an energizing activity that brings enthusiasm to other pursuits, and the growing skills of the student help keep that student motivated, energized and disciplined in their other activities.

Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo will help women students to find a place of confidence and strength in a healthful pursuit that will expand the mind, while strengthening the body.  It will increase awareness of vulnerability and threat, through an empowering process that increases the students self-confidence to know that she has the strength and ability to protect herself, as well as the foresight and decision-making skills to avoid situations in which her skills may be needed.  It will promote healthfulness and fitness of mind and body that will help to bolster her ability to achieve her other goals.  Training in self-defense with other women in a non-threatening, non-judgmental environment will promote community, and offer lasting life skills that will go well beyond her student years.

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