Taekwondo helps students thrive in various situations. When we are happy and healthy, it is easy to be on our best behavior: kind, generous, motivated, disciplined, and productive. But during tough times, stress, anxiety, and disappointments can wear us down. When we tap into the inner resources we’ve developed through Taekwondo training, we make the best of difficult situations.
Due to the COVID-19 situation, Akula Taekwondo’s studio in Novi, Michigan, like martial arts schools throughout Michigan and the world, temporarily closed in the spring of 2020. For both students and instructors, plans were disrupted and favorite activities cancelled. With ever-changing information and timelines, many experienced a spectrum of emotions–while confined to their homes, with limited outlets for our frustrations and energy. Taekwondo helped.
How Practicing Taekwondo Helps Students Thrive in Tough Times
Intense Exercise Keeps Bodies Healthy
During isolation, the movement typical in normal day-to-day life–walking to and at school/work, outdoor recreation, gym sessions–has been replaced by hours of Zoom meetings and independent desk work. But the human body needs to move to stay healthy!
Taekwondo is a great, multi-faceted total-body workout. Taekwondo practitioners build stamina and strength through punching and kicking drills, core-strengthening exercises, stretching, and fitness training. Learning and practicing poomsae (specific patterns of defense and attack movements) leads to improved motor skills, coordination, and body control.
As a result of regular training, Taekwondo athletes demonstrate high levels of cardio-respiratory fitness, excellent flexibility, outstanding dynamic upper and lower body strength, and good core endurance. They are also able to generate and sustain power.
How Exercise Benefits the Immune System
According to Cora Malott, MD, physical exercise specifically benefits the immune system through the following mechanisms:
- Improves sleep
- Reduces blood pressure
- Leads to appropriate weight loss
- Increases muscle mass
- Reduces risk of diabetes
Physical Activity is Good for Mental and Emotional Health
During the coronavirus situation, we are constantly adapting to ever-changing circumstances. Physical exercise may trigger neuroplasticity and, thereby, enhances an individual’s capacity to respond to new demands with behavioral alterations. Further, intense physical activity is a scientifically documented mood-booster and esteem-booster.
People generally feel more clear-headed and energetic after a hard workout such as a Taekwondo session. This is because exercise increases production and function of mitochondria, often called the powerhouses of cells. More mitochondria means more energy and a greater ability to work harder and faster.
One study found that children with a higher level of physical fitness had larger dorsal striatum. The dorsal striatum is the area of the brain important for making decisions and balancing rewards. Theoretically, an individual with a better developed dorsal striatum would be more willing to practice a skill to gain mastery, versus the instant gratification of scrolling through social media or playing a video game.
Another study found that even one bout of aerobic exercise improved scores on a test of memory, reasoning, and planning. Then, this study found that aerobic exercise was associated with a higher GPA among college students, and this one found that increased physical activity was associated with higher academic performance in school children grades 5 and 9.
On a more basic level, kicking, punching, and screaming are a great stress release for all ages.
Social Benefits of Taekwondo Training
While taking classes via Zoom or Facebook is not the same as practicing at the studio, online interactions offer social benefits.
We have been offering classes in a private Facebook group. The videos stay up for students to practice at their convenience–yet the vast majority of students participates during the livestream. Knowing that classmates are participating in the classes at the same time feels good. We feel the connection. And strong social connections make people happier and physically healthier, which can translate to improved performance in all areas of life.
Edit: Once outdoor gatherings were sanctioned, we began gathering outdoors in small groups. Parents feel comfortable with the outdoor setting. Kids are thrilled to be outside and interacting with peers.
The Five Tenets of Taekwondo Guide Behavior
In addition to the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of practicing Taekwondo in stressful times, Taekwondo’s martial artists can rely on the Five Tenets of Taekwondo to guide their behavior.
The intense togetherness and disappointments that are a hallmark of the Covid-19 situation can be stressful, heart-breaking, and anxiety-producing. The Five Tenets act as a constant reminder that the martial artist’s character is built up with the practice of Taekwondo, which includes our actions in all situations and all interaction with others.
The Five Tenets of Taekwondo
- Indomitable Spirit
Martial Arts in Novi, Michigan
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Published: May 2, 2020
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