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Taekwondo was originally developed to preserve life and for self-defense, but today, adults and children have many reasons for wanting to train in taekwondo. Some want to learn self-defense, others want to compete in tournaments, some seek to become physically fit, some seek the social interaction, while others just want to have fun. Whatever the reason for wanting to train in taekwondo, people will find others just like them training in taekwondo for the same reason. Modern taekwondo has developed proven teaching methods that not only help people learn taekwondo quickly and easily but also provide a wide range of benefits for students of all ages.

Some of the benefits of taekwondo

  • Increases social interaction. Social interaction gained through taekwondo training has been found to be a buffer against the stresses of life for adults, and, with long-term continued practice, it fosters greater independence. With taekwondo training, children become more enthusiastic, optimistic, and self-reliant. Many anecdotal reports from parents tell how their children do better at home and at school, both behaviorally and academically.
  • Builds character. As taekwondo practitioners develop an appreciation for the martial art, achieve physical fitness, improve their mental discipline and emotional stability, develop self-defense skills, and develop respect, they develop responsibility to self, family, community, and to society. Taekwondo helps them develop balance and harmony between their physical and moral selves. 
  • Teaches self-defense. Self-defense is an important benefit of taekwondo. Self-defense is not just using defenses and counterattacks against attackers. It is the ability to prevent injury to oneself or others from attackers. This includes learning to fall safely, to communicate with aggressors, and to escape from violent situations. Self-defense is not just concerned with physically dealing with violence; it is mostly concerned with avoiding becoming a victim of violence.
  • Increases fitness. The physical benefits of taekwondo include improvements in coordination, agility, flexibility, balance, muscular strength, and endurance. Taekwondo promotes a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy mixture of nutrition, training, and rest. Physical development also helps develop self-confidence.
  • Increases self-confidence. Self-confidence is based on self-improvement, as opposed to confidence based on the ability to perform a task. This type of self-confidence does not come from being a winner in competition; it comes from the feelings of self-worth that are derived from improving oneself. Belt advancement provides a means to document personal achievement. Advancement requires setting a goal and working toward its attainment, which builds confidence and a feeling of self-worth.
  • Increases self-worth. Training in taekwondo increases one's self-concept (the beliefs that you have about yourself, as opposed to understanding who you are via other people's opinions of you). For instance, it has been found that women training in taekwondo have a greater physical, personal, social, identity, and satisfaction self-concept. Students who are more self-confident and compete in taekwondo tournaments are more likely to win their bouts.
  • Builds morals. The moral benefits of taekwondo include the development of good character, self-control, and a non-violent attitude. Taekwondo stresses showing respect for oneself, fellow students, instructors, parents, elders, and members of the public. Achieving proficiency in taekwondo techniques demands patience, perseverance, and a desire for perfection.
  • Builds humility. Humility is a quality of all serious taekwondo students. Although practicing taekwondo boosts self-confidence, this does not convey a false sense of superiority. On the contrary, a good student should be humble and considerate. Taekwondo practitioners have the highest regard for the morality and ethics of taekwondo.
  • Eases tension, stress, and anxiety. Psychologically, taekwondo reduces tension and anxiety by teaching students to control aggression and by giving them a healthy way to vent hostility and frustration. Taekwondo is a psychological leveler. Students with quick, hot tempers learn to control their emotions. Students who are meek and mild learn to be more assertive when needed. The following are possible ways taekwondo may affect the psychologies of students:
  • Personality factors may cause people to select and participate in a sport. People tend to choose sports that most suit their personality. Beginner and advanced taekwondo students will exhibit similar personalities.
  • There may be no similarities of personality for choosing a sport, but either personality changes or loss of non-desirable personality traits means that only those with suitable psychologies remain and are successful. In this respect, choosing taekwondo as a sport may be random, but either taekwondo changes your personality or only students with suitable personalities will keep training. This means beginners may not show similar personality traits, but advanced students tend to have similar traits.
  • The choice of a sport is random, and the sport may not have any effect. In this case, taekwondo may have no effect on the personalities of the students and neither beginners nor advanced students show any pattern in their personalities.
  • Those entering a sport may show similar personalities, but changes and attrition may cause the pattern to become non-discriminating. In this case, students may choose taekwondo because it suits their personality, but changes and dropouts will be random, so beginners will show a similar pattern of personality while advanced students will not.
  • Develops leadership qualities. As students increase in rank, they are required to take on more responsibilities in class and they begin teaching new students. When they reach black belt level, they may be required to teach classes and direct students. During camps, they are required to lead a group of students and be responsible for their actions.
  • Develops artistic expression. Taekwondo is an artistic discipline that allows artistic expression. There are strict standards for the performance of techniques but there is still some latitude for self-expression. Although patterns (prearranged series of movements and actions) and specific striking and defensive techniques must be performed in specific ways, students have some leeway to perform them in ways that express their individuality. Taekwondo movements and techniques express beauty and grace and allow students to strive continuously to develop and improve their artistic presentation.
  • Helps control delinquency. Taekwondo may help control juvenile delinquency. Studies have shown it lessens aggression, lessens anxiety, increases self-esteem, increases social adroitness (improved social skills), and increases in value orthodoxy (greater awareness of moral and social obligation.
  • Taekwondo demands self-discipline, mental concentration, and alertness. Correct technical execution of techniques requires rhythm, timing, balance, power, proper form, and proper breathing. To achieve this, students must develop disciple; stay focused, and ignore distractions. Students learn that self-discipline means doing things the right way and that being undisciplined means looking for the easy way out. Students are encouraged to practice self-discipline in all areas of their lives.
  • Helps provide an education. Taekwondo is an educational experience. Students learn about their own abilities and limitations and how to deal with those limitations. Students learn to relate to people of all ages from various socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, and racial backgrounds through their training in taekwondo. Students also learn the philosophy of taekwondo and a limited amount Korean history, culture, and language.
  • Helps control mood. Body conditioning exercise increases feelings of fatigue, with no other mood effects. Taekwondo teaches breathing awareness, self-regulation, conscious relaxation of muscles, and an internal awareness; skills common to many stress reduction programs. Taekwondo classes that stress abdominal breathing and are non-competitive, predictable, and rhythmical tend to reduce stress.

What causes these beneficial change?

While it may be argued that what we get out of the martial arts is what we bring to the training, it is also possible that martial arts training makes us grow beyond what we bring. Some studies have tried to demonstrate the importance of class content on the changes observed in subjects.

One study evaluated students from traditional martial arts schools (emphasis on meditation, respect, light-contact sparring, and patterns) and students from modern martial arts schools (limited meditation, respect not stressed, heavy contact sparring, and little emphasis on patterns). Beginning students in both traditional and modern schools had similar scores but advanced students in the traditional schools showed lower scores for aggression than beginning students while there was no change in the scores for advanced modern students.

Another study found that both traditional and modern styles of training led to improvements in general mental health but that traditional students showed significant increases in scores for self-acceptance that were not reported for the modern students. Most research supports the hypothesis that the training environment and style of instruction influence these differences.

These findings suggest that martial arts should be much more than just kicks and punches. The training environment and/or the instructor influence whether positive psychosocial changes occur in martial artists, so, whether these changes occur or not is impossible to predict since there are many differences between martial arts classes, instructors, and teaching methods.

Taekwondo benefits as compared to other sports

Martial arts are like other physical activities in that they include physical activity, physical fitness, skills acquisition, and social activity. However, there are also differences. Most sports emphasize competition and winning, while the martial arts traditionally emphasize self-knowledge, self-improvement, and self-control that are gained through ethical teachings, ceremony, ritual, emphasis on integration of mind and body, and meditation. Some studies have shown that these non-physical aspects of the martial arts have a unique influence on the long-term, psychosocial changes seen in participants that are not seen in participants of other types of sports.

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