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The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Martial artist kicks his way into a better lifestyle

Madison Rasp
Junior Luke Johnson demonstrates his taekwondo skills for younger students.

Swiftly punching his fists through the air, sweat racing down his forehead, junior Luke Johnson kicks with perfect precision to practice his ideal form. Johnson has been working to improve his taekwondo skills at Tiger Rock Oak Hill. Being a fifth-degree black belt, Johnson has had to work long and hard to get where he is now.

“I started taekwondo a couple weeks after I turned four,” Johnson said. “My older brother wanted to be a ninja, that’s the story. I’ve been told that he just roped the rest of the family into it and there’s no going back.”

taekwondo is a competitive self-defense martial art, which developed in Korea following World War II. Compared to various martial arts such as karate, kung fu, and judo, taekwondo focuses on kicking techniques. There are eight belts in taekwondo, the first being white, which you receive when you commence training. The following belts are yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black. Once you advance to a black belt you also become an instructor.

“My favorite part is teaching,” Johnson said. “If I couldn’t teach I probably wouldn’t still be sticking with it because you can always learn more, but there’s not much learning to do in Tiger Rock. After you’ve gotten to that black belt level you are expected to teach.”

According to his teammates, Johnson is heavily appreciated for his involvement in martial arts.

“Luke is an incredible martial artist as well as an instructor,” senior teammate Bex Cao-Spurlock said. “He works hours on end to not only make himself and his skill set better but also make sure he’s teaching his students in the best way he can. He’s the absolute best. I can always depend on him to be there when I need him to be. In taekwondo, he works with you and makes it a positive environment while still giving you tips and tricks trying to make you the best martial artist you can be.”

There are two main branches of taekwondo: the International taekwondo Federation (ITF) and the World taekwondo Federation (WTF). The WTF style of taekwondo is one of the two Asian martial arts that have been recognized as an Olympic sport. All matches last over three rounds of two minutes each, with a one-minute break between rounds. A knockdown occurs if any part of a contestant’s body touches the floor apart from the foot.

“We basically do the International taekwondo Federation,” Johnson said. “We were in the ITF, and then we became Tiger Rock. I kick a lot But in ITF we punch well sometimes. It’s fun. It’s really fun. You’ll make friends, you will get more confident and you also can kick really well.”

Luke is not known as just an average martial artist. He has won many trophies and medals for his dedication and determination to taekwondo. Luke constantly wants to learn more and more skills to not only improve himself but also others.

“I usually win our district competitions,” Johnson said. “I usually get triple gold. At the world tournament that we just had, I got silver in sparring and just got second place in forms. So I got double slivers, first in some board breaking and then this year overall, I just got 23 grand champions. I guess I’m practicing like four or five hours at a time with no real stopping except for when it’s hot to go get water during the week.”

Sparring is a form of fighting that has more rules so fewer people get major injuries. Forms are an order of movements that are performed in a particular way and were designed to simulate a fight against imaginary opponents. Board breaking seems pretty self-explanatory but has some rules that some people don’t know. One point will be awarded for each board broken and 2 points for each turning jump kick technique. 1 point is given for each turning kick technique but not jumping.

“In taekwondo, you see a lot of amazing people performing forms and combinations so beautifully”. Cao-Spurlock said. “It makes you want to overtrain to be even better, the best, but knowing your body is so important to prevent injuries and further complications that could negatively affect your martial arts career”.

As much as Taekondwo can be rewarding it can also be very stressful and challenging. It is not all about the physical, as with some of the other martial arts it can be, taekwondo has as much to do with mental discipline as it does with physical discipline. taekwondo is often not an easy thing to learn. There are about 24 movements that you need to memorize in the official ITF syllabus; the reason why they made it 24 hours is 24 hours a day.

“I’d say the hardest part of doing taekwondo is seeing how far you still have to go. It can be kind of discouraging at times,” teammate junior Sowmya Kulukuru said. “But that just makes it all the more rewarding when you finally reach a goal.”

Taekwondo can be great for students to learn ways to improve their confidence, discipline, and mental, and emotional health. It can also teach one how to set and achieve goals. According to Cao-spurlock Knowing a martial art could also protect you if you ever get into a threatening situation.

“I can defend myself if needed,” Cao-Spurlock said. “I’d hope I’d never need to, but unfortunately it is a valid fear in our society. Self-defense is a skill everyone should know. You never know when or if it will come in handy. Walking at night or alone on a street can be dangerous and if it’s comfort knowing I can get out of a tricky situation if I need to make myself feel safer out in public or the community”.

Something that is a harder skill to learn in taekwondo is specializing in weapons. For most taekwondo federations, weapon training is not a formal part of the curriculum. Many individual schools, however, will incorporate some weapon training into their syllabus. Some of the most popular weapons used are Bo Staff, Eskrima Sticks, Short Stick, Nunchaku, and Kamas.

“I specialize in Kamas and am the weapons team Instructor,” Johnson said.“That’s what they hired me for. So I know all the weapons by specializing in kamas because they’re dynamic. You can do whatever you want with a bow staffer or a sword but you’re stuck where you are with those. You can do cool tricks but It’s a lot harder to do.”

According to the students of Tiger Rock Oak Hill, taekwondo is a great sport to be a part of. As much as it seems to take lots of time and practice, the students generally have a good time together.

“The most fun part is the people,” Kulukuru said. “I love the Tiger Rock community so much, and getting to see everyone always makes my day.”

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