For a new beginner, sparring can be an incredibly daunting thing! Check out the video below for our Top 5 sparring tips for beginners.
Keeping fit and building strength.
It’s an incredible overall body workout and a great way to stay fit! - Stacey
Regular exercise can improve many aspects of our overall fitness and energy levels and we all know it’s good for us to keep fit. As kids, we had bundles of energy and oodles of time for playing outside and sporting activities but, as adults, many of us have office jobs and long commutes and it’s common to find that you have fallen into a sedentary lifestyle.
Forbes England is a 4th degree black belt and started training in Taekwon-do in his early thirties to improve his fitness. He “got the bug” and still trains as often as he can today. He explains why it’s important to push yourself to do as much regular exercise as you can, even if you have a busy lifestyle: “I’m a director in a company. I sit behind a computer, drive a lot and sit in lots of client meetings. It’s very easy to get home after a days work without doing anything physical. Weight can pile on really quickly.”
It can be hard to get into the habit of regular exercise, but Mick, who also works in an office in a managerial role, says that the more exercise you do, the easier it becomes: “I’ve lost a stone since I started Taekwon-do. I’ve always been sporty - I played football and I do cycling and fell-running - but I think if I had done Taekwon-do way back then I might have played football for longer and had better all-round fitness. I’m much better at cycling through training in Taekwon-do and vice versa.”
Are you worried that you won’t be fit enough for a martial arts class? Ed, a 1st degree black belt at Evesham Martial Arts, came back to martial arts after a long break. He urges everyone to give martial arts a go, no matter your level of fitness. “You can pick it up at any age,” he says. “It’s a very gradual thing, an incremental thing. There isn’t a steep learning curve.”
Forbes says: “As long as you’re pushing yourself, you can train as hard or light as you like within your limitations… just do what you can do.” He adds that you might be surprised at what you can achieve in a supportive club like Evesham Martial Arts, where everyone is encouraging others to push themselves a little bit more. “I like working with partners who are encouraging me to do that extra press-up, that extra pattern, to kick a little bit higher,” he says.
Charlie started training at Evesham Martial Arts in February this year and says she has already seen big improvements in her fitness: “My background is that I’ve done no physical fitness apart from Zumba and aerobics. I couldn’t do a press-up when I started, now I can do 15 in a row and 40 squats. I’ve got more stamina now and I’m getting stronger. It’s marginal gains that will all mount up at some point.”
Graham also swims as well as training in Taekwon-do, but says he prefers Taekwon-do because the sport offers more variety: “I do a lot of swimming. It can get monotonous. Here you have to use your brain as well as physical energy… it mixes it up.”
Ed believes that Taekwon-do can offer additional benefits to other sports: “I think it gives you confidence. It gives you a bit of poise and balance that you might not have just through regular fitness. There’s a little bit of competition to it which is good fun as well.”
Charlie says that the regular progression through gradings in Taekwon-do helps to keep her motivated to keep up with her fitness: “You could skip any other kind of class at the gym. Here you’ve got to continue and train regularly… there’s always something you have to learn to do for your next grading.”
Mental benefits of Taekwon-do
I've always found that Taekwon-do has set me up for success - Willow
Traditional martial arts, such as Taekwon-do, provide many other benefits besides keeping fit. A 1993 studycompared the personality characteristics of thirty adults training in Taekwon-do at two schools in the United States. Training in the martial art for a longer duration of time was shown to decrease anxiety and to increase independence. Additionally, traditional martial arts have been linkedto reducing stress, improving confidence, focus, self-control and cognitive function.
Training in Taekwon-do can reduce stress
For Mick, having the guidance of his instructors in Taekwon-do class helps him to de-stress: “In my daily work, important decisions are mine to make and take and I have to deal with all of that. Here, someone else is in charge and I become the student, the pupil, and learn from someone else - that’s quite a good swap around for me. I find it de-stresses me.” He also adds that it might be useful for someone in a managerial position to reflect on how they’re being encouraged to train to the best of their ability in Taekwon-do: “When you’re coaching people at work, you learn here how you’re getting coached and can sometimes reflect on that in your daily life.”
Training in Taekwon-do can improve your focus, self-control and cognitive function
Stacey says: “I think it teaches you a lot of focus, patience and control... Having to commit yourself to learning the patterns can be quite frustrating, if they have elements of skills you’re not strong in. If you commit to that, you can take that dedication into your work and home life.”
Mark has recently started training at Evesham Martial Arts after a long and successful career in the military. “After sixteen years of being in the military and coming out the other side with PTSD, I find that having something I can apply myself to is a good channel for me,” he says. “It’s good for me just to have something to focus on.”
Mick says: “One of the benefits for me has been gaining more ability to remember and retain information. The theory and having to remember patterns gets you back into a learning mode, and you start absorbing more in everyday life. It’s certainly improved that side of things for me.”
“I think it has taught me more self-control,” Stacey says. She cites the practice of bowing in and bowing out. “You have to give that level of respect. It’s expected of you and drilled into you. You do take it outside of the dojang as well, even if it’s only self consciously.”
Training in Taekwon-do can improve your confidence
Charlie runs her own business from home and says her confidence has grown since she started Taekwon-do and she now feels more comfortable at networking events. “I’ve gone to networking events I’d never normally have done - it could well be a knock on effect of coming here and gaining confidence,” she says. “As I work from home, I don’t see many people. Everyone is so friendly here and it’s nice to come along and have that interaction with people as well.”
Stacey says: “I think if you’re a complete beginner starting a martial art like Taekwon-do for the first time, it could be massively beneficial in terms of building confidence. You have to interact with all sorts of people that you perhaps wouldn’t come across in your normal day to day life. You’ve got to train with all levels and people with different abilities - people that are good in different areas to yourself - so I think it does give you that confidence, even if it’s just trying something new and pushing yourself to do things that can be quite uncomfortable at times.”
Willow is one of the instructors at Evesham Martial Arts and has recently achieved his 3rd degree black belt. Choosing to start training in Taekwon-do all those years ago has led to a career that he loves: “I started because I was bullied, and now I work as a martial arts instructor. I never thought that I could stand up in front of 360 different students and teach them… I never had that confidence to teach when I first started Taekwon-do, but my instructor encouraged me to do it and I’m glad she did because now I feel like I can do anything.” He explains that the confidence he has gained from training in and teaching Taekwon-do has had a positive impact in other areas of his life: “I’m a single dad doing everything on my own, but coming here and having that motivation behind me has set me up for success. Taekwon-do has given me the life that I wanted. It’s worth the journey, absolutely.”
Training in Taekwon-do as a family can strengthen the bond between you and your children
We've always had Taekwon-do as our Foundation - Forbes
Forbes trained alongside his sons for years, and he says it has strengthened the bond between them. “In martial arts, there’s a really good mix of ages, and families train together and that really worked for us as a family,” he says. “My son Jack also trained in Taekwon-do up until he was about twenty, and it was a real bond. We’re all really close because we had that in common. We’ve always had Taekwon-do as our foundation.”
Mick says he was inspired to start Taekwon-do through watching his daughter training. “My daughter started before me and I saw her enjoying herself and thought I’d like to have a go. I’d always wanted to do martial arts but I never had the confidence to walk through the door and ask if I could start until I started here. I started doing it once a week and now I’m here three times a week. My daughter is progressing as well and we can practice together.”
You’re never too old to start martial arts
Taekwon-do was as life changing for me as it was for my son - Forbes
Mark says: “I think I’m one of the oldest here at 50. I had a long break from martial arts and coming back to it, I wondered if I was too old. My personal challenge is to prove myself wrong.” He says he’s enjoying the journey so far and has made getting as far as possible in Taekwon-do his new goal: “I’m all about setting myself goals, and this is my new goal.”
Forbes says, “I get it can be quite scary walking through the door for the first time, but there are all ages here. It’s very much a team culture. Martial arts can be individualistic if you want to compete, but in the club it’s about improving and helping others improve and you end up being like a family where everyone’s helping everyone else. You’re not on your own. It will cost you nothing to give it a go.”
1. Martial Arts Can Improve Self-Confidence
Kids who have been the victims of bullying in school are likely to have lost confidence, but training in martial arts can help them to regain it. Taekwon-do classes incorporate the values of courtesy and respect, teaching kids to not only be respectful to others but that they also deserve to be treated with respect themselves and that no-one has to accept being bullied. Kids who are confident, have high self-esteem and the conviction that they don’t have to accept bad behaviour from their peers are also less likely to be the targets of bullying.
9-year-old Paige says she was encouraged to start Taekwon-do by her dad because “he knew that I was bullied at school”. Paige’s confidence has grown through training in martial arts and she now stands up to the bullies and recently defended a friend from a bully. Paige has developed a strong moral compass and says, “If friends are getting bullied, you stand up for them”.
Paige says her favourite thing about Taekwon-do is the instructors: “They’re really nice.”
Her younger sister, Khaleesi (6), has started Taekwon-do as well and says she loves the games, particularly “ninja-turtle” (like duck-duck-goose). Younger kids are introduced to Taekwon-do through play. They will learn basic strikes and blocks but the sessions are heavily focused on games and improving fitness, flexibility, balance and coordination - maybe without the kids knowing it!
The sisters want to keep training together and to achieve their black belts.
Martial Arts can help kids deal with Bullying
7-year-old Stevie has been training at Evesham Martial Arts since he was 4-years-old. Over the years, his confidence has grown and Stevie has started to help other kids at school, both in the classroom and protecting them from bullies in the playground.
Stevie’s dad is incredibly proud that Stevie is looking out for other kids and he feels confident that Stevie would always deal with bullies in the right way. He explains: “He leads by example.... if other kids are being picked on in the playground, he’ll go up to them and ask them (the bullies) to leave them alone, then tell the teachers.”
Dad says that Taekwon-do has “been brilliant” for Stevie. He says that “his confidence is a lot higher” and that training in Taekwon-do has also improved Stevie’s focus, concentration and teamwork: “They’re very good at getting him to work in teams, follow instructions and work hard”.
Stevie says that he loves “everything” about Taekwon-do and that he feels more confident now: “Now I know I can defend myself and others”. Stevie wants to continue training to achieve his black belt and to compete in world championships.
Martial Arts teaches kids the value of hard work and persistence
It’s clear that Aaron’s hard work has paid off. He won the “most improved student” award in 2016 and was “student of the year” in 2018.
Aaron’s mum says she was “amazed” by Aaron’s achievement and is obviously proud. She says, “I don’t think he finds it easy, but he works hard”.
Learning that ‘hard work pays off’ is an essential life skill for kids. They will face many challenges in school, such as exams, and even more as they go into adulthood. Instilling the value of perseverance in kids from an early age is likely to help them succeed in their school studies and other areas of life.
The journey in learning and improvement never ends in martial arts - even after black belt you can progress through the Dan grades and take on new challenges such as teaching. Martial arts never aims to be easy, but it can be hugely rewarding for kids to be able to look back and see how far they’ve come on their journey and how much they’ve improved.
Martial Arts can help to deal with anger issues
Kids who are struggling with feelings of anger need a positive and safe outlet to help them to manage their emotions. Punching and kicking bags is a good and non-destructive way to manage feelings of anger, stress and frustration.
Ginny, mum to Poppy and Bella, says that her girls have “changed dramatically” since they started Taekwon-do and have gained a lot more confidence: “My eldest, Poppy, had some anger issues and they’ve calmed down a lot”.
She says that Poppy has been training for a year and “it has done her a world of good coming here. She’s a different girl”. Ginny says the instructors are “all very welcoming” and that the gym is “a lovely place to come as well” and likes the viewing area for parents where they can watch their kids train.
Poppy seems a little shy in her interview but says she has become more confident through training in Taekwon-do. She especially enjoys doing flying kicks and sparring the instructors.
Her younger sister Bella started a few weeks ago. Bella seems to really look forward to class, and was eagerly waiting beside the mat before the start. Bella seems to have been particularly inspired by one of the instructors, Willow Manton (3rd Dan). Ginny says “Mr Manton is Bella’s hero”. Bella’s favourite part of Taekwon-do class is the kicks and she wants to follow in Mr Manton’s footsteps and get her black belt and to go into teaching. She says she feels confident that she could defend herself against bullies “even if they’re bigger than me”.
Martial Arts teaches goal setting and perseverance
Lily works incredibly hard. She has been training at Evesham Martial Arts for three years and also practises at home. She is now a red belt (2nd kup) and is hoping to achieve 1st Dan (black belt) by the end of next year and she’s already miles ahead. This young woman has a strong sense of dedication and confidence in her abilities and says she already started learning her next pattern even before she found out if she had passed her red belt grading.
“I love learning new patterns,” she says and she also enjoys kicks and sparring. She really likes the instructors at Evesham Martial Arts: “They’re really nice. I love them! They’re funny and good teachers”.
Lily says that Taekwon-do has “definitely changed me as a person. I wasn’t as confident as I am now” and says that training in Taekwon-do has also helped her to stand up to bullies: “Sometimes at school people say mean things about me. At Taekwon-do they teach you how to stand up to bullies… they leave me alone now”.
Lily says that Taekwon-do has helped her to focus and that she uses the Taekwon-do tenets in everyday life, recently persevering through her exams. She believes the most important tenet is perseverance: “You should never give up and if you want to achieve a goal, stick to it until you achieve it then set a new standard for yourself to get to”.
She says that it will take “all of the Taekwon-do tenets and patience” to become an Olympic champion. It’s an ambitious goal, but Lily definitely has the skill and dedication to achieve it.
Where could starting a new adventure training in martial arts take your child? Achieving a black belt, international competitions or inspiring others through teaching? Evesham Martial Arts offers two lessons free as a trial so there’s no excuse not to give it a go!