So you have probably seen amazing martial art stars such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and wondered, "Why can't I do that?" The truth is that anyone can become a black belt in taekwondo. Though, I must forewarn you, it takes a lot of time, discipline, hard work, and money.
- Understand What Taekwondo Is: Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that originated in Korea. It consists of the art of kicking and formal patterns of movements known as forms. Taekwondo is not all about learning to fight. Fighting is discouraged and the moves learned are only to be used in self-defense and tournaments. Through taekwondo, you will learn to discipline yourself, respect yourself and others, and to believe in yourself. You will also gain loyalty, courage, perseverance, self-control, honor, and integrity. In addition to improving your attitude, taekwondo also brings many physical benefits such as strength, flexibility, and speed.
- Choose a School: There are a lot of taekwondo schools available. Make sure you look for one with certified black belt instructors. Main instructors should be a third-degree black belt or higher; it means they know what they are doing. When looking for the right school, you may want to find one that fits your budget and schedule as well. My personal opinion is to become a member and attend a school through the American Taekwondo Association. Through ATA, there are several schools across the nation. Being a member with them will help make you easily recognized and able to compete in many different tournaments. Search ATAOnline to find a school near you.
- The First Class: Once you choose a school and sign up, you will be given a white belt and a uniform. Yes, you look like the peon, but this will not last too long. Follow all instructions the instructor gives. Bow entering and leaving class. Always address your instructors with a "Yes, Sir/Ma'am" or "No, Sir/Ma'am." You do not have to worry about not fitting into your first class. The instructors are tough, but do not worry, they will guide you through the first week so that you will not be confused.
- Commit Yourself: As a white belt, you have about three years before you can become a black belt. You will move up a series of belts in this order -- white, orange, yellow, camouflage, green, purple, blue, brown, red, and finally, black. Each studio varies on their belt testing, but expect to test every two to four months. Through each belt you will learn more advanced moves and forms. Soon you will learn to spar as well. Sparring is fighting an opponent with gear on. Everything you learn throughout your belts will prepare you to be a black belt.
- Black Belt Testing: Three years have passed and you are looked up to by the new white belts in the class. Remember those days? Every school differs in its black belt testing. Some just let you go through the forms you must know and you pass. Others, like my studio, make you run a mile twice, beating your time the second time, fighting what they call "the wall" (a series of nonstop fighting with 11 third degree and higher black belts), and then perform the forms you must know, perform a weapons routine, and break some boards. As I mentioned before, it is hard, but there is no better feeling than wearing your black belt once you've earned it.