September 8, 2020 (NYC)– Taekwondo is what the world needs now! To say that 2020 has been a challenging year may be one of the greatest understatements uttered in modern times. A Global Pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, and economic devastation have been the hallmarks of this difficult time. While Taekwondo, and its practice, is not the cure for this tumultuous time I would argue that Taekwondo and its principles offer the key to coping with the stress associated with them and the key to making our society a more livable place. To highlight my point, let’s look at some of the key issues of the day.
The Global Pandemic
Certainly, Taekwondo does not offer the key to solving the complex issues of the Global medical crisis we have been facing since February of this year. However, we do understand that optimal physical health is a key to minimizing the severity of COVID-19. Co-morbidities, including obesity and poor respiratory health, have been identified as critical factors in leading to a greater likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to the virus. Regular Taekwondo practice, at its minimum, improves respiratory health, improves overall fitness, and is a key factor in maintaining a healthy body mass index. These reasons alone, make Taekwondo practice a potent ally in minimizing the impact of COVID-19.
Similarly, the Global Pandemic has decimated the mental health of people of every age, ethnicity, and economic demographic. Isolation, economic stress, and generalized fear have made people susceptible to depression and more prone to suicide. Taekwondo practice is a powerful way to receive stress and overcome fear. Taekwondo focuses on the integration of the mind and body, and emphasizes self-control and the overcoming of adversity as its fundamental tenets. Board breaking, a staple of Taekwondo, often embraces the concept that the wooden board is not a physical object, but a symbol of an obstacle which the practitioner must ‘break through’ to gain peace and satisfaction. What a simple, but useful, exercise in this trying time. How many of us could use a ‘break through’ right now?
Furthermore, through the magic of modern technology virtual classes have allowed Taekwondo students to maintain a sense of ongoing community with their Dojang and classmates, even in these most isolating of times. While not offering the same level of social interaction as live classes, these factors provide a much needed oasis in the desert of human loneliness and despair in a world where no Taekwondo practice at all is the alternative.
We have all witnessed, via our televisions, and through the lens of social media the severe civil unrest the world is facing. While much of the debate has lead to a healthy discussion of some very difficult social and moral topics, there is also an abundance of disturbing violence, civil disrespect, intolerance, and inhumanity impacting all of us. The tenets of Taekwondo call for a deep rooted respect for one another in all things. More important than the kicks and punches in our Taekwondo practice is “the bow”. The bow is a symbol of our respect. Respect for each other. Respect for our institutions and country. Respect for ourselves. This respect transcends our disagreements, our race, our country, and our political affiliations. It is much needed symbol of our humanity towards one another. As human beings there are more things that unite us than divide us, and we should highlight these as the fundamental cornerstones of civil discussion about the continuous improvement of our society, our country, and the planet Earth. This is what Taekwondo has taught me over the last 35 years.
As for the police, I do understand that there is legitimate criticism of the behavior of some individuals that hold this very precious and important position in our society. However, I have known some fine, decent, and honorable police officers in my life and I appreciate the sacrifices they make every day in an increasingly dangerous world. I would propose that Taekwondo training should be a mandatory part of any police forces’ regimen. Not merely because it would provide the police with a greater arsenal of non-lethal weapons to deploy in dangerous situations, but because I believe the “Do” in Taekwondo can help elevate the mindset of police officers and provide them with the confidence and tools to evaluate and de-escalate dangerous situations to the benefit of all parties involved. As we are always reminded as we practice this ancient Korean martial art, “We train to fight so we never have to.“
I am truly confident that not only would the police benefit from regular Taekwondo training, but so would anyone who came in contact, and even, conflict, with them in these challenging time. I would challenge anyone to provide a single negative consequence of incorporating Taekwondo practice as a part of a new and revitalized police training protocol.
2020 has been a year defined by pain and tragedy and societal unrest up till now. While things will surely improve, the dramatic impact of the years’ events will be felt long into the future. As 2021 approaches, perhaps, if more people would take up the call to look to a local Dojang during these difficult times they might find more than a place to kick and to punch. They might find what they actually need to make their world a better place.
I truly believe Taekwondo is what the world needs now!
-by Marc Zirogiannis