Tae-Kwon-Do is a mixture of ancient Korean martial arts techniques subak and taekkyeon along with Chinese and Japanese influence. The martial art style was developed in the 1950s and 60s in South Korea in the aftermath of the Korean War.
The name comes from the Koren words tae which means “to strike or break with foot”, kwon “to strike on break with fist” and do “way, method or path.”
While it was created and developed in Asia, it quickly became a world wide phenomenon reaching the height of it’s popularity in the late 1980s when it was the worlds most popular style of martial arts with Tae-Kwon-Do sparing becoming an Olympic event in 2000.
Tae-Kwon-Doe emphasizes kicking techniques, which distinguish it from other martial arts styles like karate and kung fu. Koreans believe that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, so kicks have the greatest chance of striking an opponent with the most force and decrease the chances of a successful counter strike. They also felt like they were too valuable to everyday life to be used in combat.
It’s ranks are separated into junior and senior sections. Junior sections most often consists of ten ranks indicated by the color on the belt. They start at the tenth rank with a white belt and progress to the first rank indicated by a red belt with black stripes.
From there the martial artist can advance to the senior level which consists of nine ranks and begins with a first degree black belt before ranking up to second degree and so on.
Mercer resident Courtney Buis has been doing martial arts for nearly five years and is currently a first degree black belt under the instruction of John Rankin at the Wilderness Trace YMCA.
“It took me about four years to earn my black belt,” said Buis. “It took a lot of hard work and determination, but it was a fun experience as well. I remember the first time I tested for a belt, all the excitement that came with it.”
Students advance through the ranks by completing tests in which they demonstrate the ability to perform various aspects of the art before a panel of judges or their instructor.
Competitions include sparing with a partner artist in protective gear, breaking, patterns and self defense. Breaking is when an artist uses a strike to break one or more objects. Patterns are combinations of moves performed to show an artist’s speed, flexibility, stamina and balance.
Rankin is currently instructing students at the Wilderness Trace YMCA every Monday and Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for ages 5 years- old and up with parent participation encouraged.