22, No 20, May 22, 2003
Tae kwon do offers more than self
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bill Wiegand
a UI doctoral student, holds a third-degree black
belt in tae kwon do and says the training has helped
in all areas of his life.
Some Illinois faculty
and staff members and students have found that tae kwon do can be much
more than a means of self-defense.
Graduate student Klemen Strle (STIR-lay), who holds a third-degree black
belt in tae kwon do, said that the rigorous training he has undergone
during the past eight years has fostered self-discipline, self-confidence
and leadership skills that have helped him academically and socially.
Strle even credits tae kwon do with helping him overcome his fear of
"Without tae kwon do, I don't know what kind of a person I would
be, but I know it's influenced pretty much every part of my life,"
Strle said. "It really increases your view of what you can accomplish.
I realize that if I want to do something, I can do it. I just have to
practice hard to get there."
Strle teaches an advanced class in the art and is vice president of
the Illini Tae Kwon Do Club. As does its parent facility in Savoy that
many faculty and staff members attend, the Illini club practices the
moo do philosophy, a doctrine that upholds tae kwon do as a peaceful
way of life and means of intellectual and spiritual growth rather than
as an athletic competition. Even though the students still spar at times,
the emphasis is on improving individual performance instead of demonstrating
supremacy over an opponent.
by Bill Wiegand
a UI professor of history, enjoys the continual challenges
provided by tae kwon do.
colors of participants' belts symbolize their personal growth in addition
to their proficiency in certain techniques.
The noncompetitive philosophy fosters a more positive, inclusive environment
that enables students of all ages and fitness levels to participate,
according to Matt Hartman, president of the Illini club. Hartman, a
doctoral student, is a second-degree black belt and another of the club's
However, media stereotypes that depict martial arts as the realm of
child prodigies and tough guys makes some prospective participants shy
away, Hartman said.
"It's not very easy to recruit people for tae kwon do because it's
not something that's easy to do," Hartman said. "But if I
have a student who is completely uncoordinated and has no flexibility,
that's better to me because I can work with that person and they're
going to improve the most."
Lillian Hoddeson, professor of history, said she was a "martial
arts mom" who served as only chauffeur and spectator for her son,
Michael Baym, for several years while he took tae kwon do lessons, never
daring to participate because she believed that her age, her gender
and her busy schedule would work to her disadvantage.
However, after a year or so of gentle prodding by her son's instructor,
and needing an outlet one particularly stressful day, Hoddeson decided
to give tae kwon do a try. Seven years later, Hoddeson holds a first-degree
black belt and teaches tae kwon do classes in the community.
by Bill Wiegand
had tried aerobics and other workouts before taking up tae kwon do,
she found that they became monotonous. However, tae kwon do's cumulative
learning environment, in which students continuously enhance their techniques
and knowledge, has kept the workouts interesting and challenging, Hoddeson
"When you're at the point where you think you know it all, you’ve
got a new set of things to work on," Hoddeson said. "By the
time you've been there for a number of years, you develop a large repertoire
of things to do that are all strengthening. And you never learn anything
Hoddeson, Strle and Hartman all said that the intense concentration
that tae kwon do demands of them during practice helps them transcend
the worries and pressures of their lives for a while. They end their
workouts feeling physically tired but mentally refreshed.
"All the stresses from academic things – budget troubles
and the like – suddenly they aren’t there for a while, and
I'm just simply working on building myself and expressing my strength,"
Hoddeson said. "It's very relaxing. My side interest in tae kwon
do has made an enormous positive impact on my ability to function successfully
as a scholar and as a professor."
Because Hoddeson has problems with her knees, she has learned to be
judicious about performing certain moves so that she can continue to
improve her skills yet avoid injuring herself, a dynamic that took her
about three years to learn, she said.
About four years after Hoddeson became a tae kwon do student, her son,
Michael Baym, who is now a graduate student, began encouraging her to
take the instructor program, which he had completed the previous year.
"He said to me, 'You know, mom, it will change your life,' "
Hoddeson said. "And coming from my son, I thought, 'Well, it's
something to consider.'"
The instructor program is typically a year long and encompasses seminars
about other martial arts, Asian philosophies and teaching theories as
well as a mastery class in advanced techniques and twice-weekly student
In her 50s at the time, Hoddeson was concerned that her age would limit
her capacities until the master at the academy reassured her that age
was "just something in your head."
"I think many of us have an idea about how much we can do at a
certain age that's not quite right because we don't try to extend our
physical abilities," Hoddeson said. "At a certain age, everybody
has this idea you just cut down. While I think that older people's limits
are not as great as people's in their 20s, they're much farther out
than most of us realize."
Carl Caldwell, WILL-TV station manager, said he decided to take up tae
kwon do after hearing a senior citizen on a radio program extolling
tae kwon do as a means of physical conditioning and disease prevention.
A family history of heart disease and hypertension, coupled with a sedentary
occupation, had Caldwell concerned about his health and prospective
longevity, so after hearing the radio interview, he thought tae kwon
do might be beneficial for him.
During the first few months of lessons, however, Caldwell said he felt
that perhaps he had made a mistake because he found the movements "very
strange." Yet Caldwell persisted, and 18 years later, he holds
a first-degree black belt and teaches a noontime class at the academy
where he was a student.
Like Hoddeson, Caldwell attests that tae kwon do has improved his overall
"At a young age, I came down with some arthritis, and I think that
it has definitely helped my arthritis," Caldwell said. "It's
helped my endurance. It's reduced my stress level, and overall, I just
feel better working the cardiovascular the way I do three or four times
a week. Now I may drop dead tomorrow, but at least I feel good. Even
if longevity is not in the cards, at least it helps in terms of how
While some participants adhere to tae kwon do because they find its
philosophies enhance other aspects of their lives, Caldwell said that
the physical conditioning is the sole reason he has stuck with tae kwon
do over the years. And, like Hoddeson, Caldwell has found the continual
physical and intellectual challenges that tae kwon do provides stimulating.
"I've always said that you can get a great workout and learn something
at the same time, and that’s a great combination. At least it
has been for me," Caldwell said.