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These principles can apply to all parts of our lives. Respecting our family and friends, acting with honesty, and developing self-control will help us to think a bit more clearly about what we do and say, and leave us feeling more confident, calm and balanced. Although we may learn techniques to protect ourselves, we must have the self-control to limit any harm done to the minimum needed for self- defence. Let’s face it, these days knowing how to defend yourself is an important tool to have. But while the media, Sports taekwondo, and our success at the Olympics have helped promote this more aggressive image, Traditional Taekwondo has so much more to offer, and incorporates all aspects of mind, body and spirit.
The physical benefits are plenty – just practicing the various kicks, blocks and punches will improve fitness, strength, balance and flexibility. A healthy, active body helps prevent against a variety of illnesses, can improve mood and promote a strong immune system. Breathing techniques, such as breathing into the ‘Danjon’, the body’s ‘energy centre’, although not widely practiced are very similar to pranayama (yoga breathing techniques), encouraging improved oxygenation and energy flow throughout the body, and using the breath as a meditative tool to focus the mind, calm the body and create peace. Clearing the mind of distractions is important not only in sparring or self-defence, but in all aspects of our daily lives. One of my favourite yoga sayings illustrates the importance of our breathing and its effect on the body:
‘The body reflects the breath
The breath reflects the mind
The mind reflects the heart
The heart reflects the soul’.
Poomsae, or patterns are another aspect that not only work the body, but also the mind as they require a great deal of patience, focus, concentration and body awareness. I find poomsae almost meditative, as you flow from one technique to the next, similar to the flow within a vinyasa yoga sequence.
Life isn’t always easy. Persevering through tough times, and getting up again and again if we fall, lets us develop that indomitable spirit. Giving us that strength to go further than we ever thought possible, and allowing us to face our fears. Personally, Taekwondo helped me immensely, as a timid, shy (introverted) 20 year old in a then male dominated sport, enabling me to find my confidence, my voice, and strive to achieve my goals against any odds.
To me Taekwondo has many similarities to other modalities such as Yoga and Reiki, and is just another perfectly fitting piece of the puzzle that makes up my journey so far, a puzzle that is always expanding in all directions as I grow with each new lesson and experience.