My Life Was Strengthened By Taekwondo

        My martial arts journey started around age 5 watching the movie “The Karate Kid” with my parents and being totally inspired. I thought it was so cool and wanted to learn Karate just like Daniel san! Karate was so mysterious as well! During this time I also would watch pro wrestling and root for Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. I spent many afternoons with the neighborhood kids wrestling in the front yard of someone’s house and pretending we are certain wrestlers. In actuality we would do kicks and punches and pretend wrestling moves so it was more like play-karate-pro-wrestling. Doing this activity we figured out front kicks, side kicks and roundkicks on our own. But we called both roundkick and sidekick “sidekick” because we thought it was the same kick just done different. As I got older, other times we pretended we were ninjas or Karate guys, or even the Ninja Turtles or Batman from Nintendo games we played and fought in the front yard.

At age 6 my mom enrolled me into a neighborhood Karate class that was being held at the local middle school. My dad would walk me to the school for my classes. I probably stayed in that class for 1 month before quitting because it was so boring. I believe it was Shotokan and the Sensei had absolutely no clue how to teach kids or even pay attention to us. He was focused more on the adults. Also, we never actually punched or kicked anything. I wanted to punch pads so bad and we wasted time doing slow motion things almost the entire time because he could not seem to teach well. I was extremely bored so my parents let me quit. In some ways I wish I had not quit because if I stayed I could have been really good, yet my life turned toward Taekwondo later and I am thankful and satisfied.

Later in life in 4th grade I enrolled in my private school’s youth Wrestling program and spent 1 season competing as a youth wrestler. I only won 3 matches the entire year and lost everything else. It was annoying because there was no skill levels, just weight classes. So I was always wrestling kids who had years experience and I could barely ever win because I had only been training for a couple months. After the season was over I did not pursue wrestling again. I also wish I kind of did just like my prior Karate class because I would have been good but I switched to homeschooling the next year anyway and never thought to find wrestling. I honestly did not understand the power of grappling as this was pre-UFC days and felt I needed to learn how to kick and punch. So a few years later in 8th grade, at age 13 I joined a Taekwondo gym.

But before joining that Taekwondo gym, in my life, I had always been picked on by bullies. Bullies in the neighborhood would always harass me and scare me. Older mean kids would chase me when I was riding my bike, and other kids threatened to beat me up. Some would grab me an scare the crap out of me. Around age 11 or 12 I always had one mean kid from another neighborhood show up to some girls house on our street who was a tom boy. This kid would always harass me and threaten to beat me up and tried to get me to fight him. He was a really bad kid with a dysfunctional family, and he also smoked. Apparently, his sister was on a popular 90’s talkshow for sleeping with a large amount of men and people would bring it up to him and he would get mad. That tells you about his family. He was absolutely crazy. One time he even came to my house at night and smacked my bedroom window in the middle of the night to scare me. I was always so scared of this kid because I had never been in a fight before and was afraid I would get beat up. I knew I needed skills, strength and confidence to face my fears. I was probably around 10 when this kid started bothering me and it lasted through to age 13 off and on. This kid talked like he was some gangster and would quote Death Row Records lyrics from various rappers like Snoop Dog. He used to scream “Bowowow yippy yo yippy yay! Death row’s in tha mutherf***g house!!” He was a very strange and disturbed kid. When he would yell at me he would flip his shirt up and I never understood why he did that, like it was some gangster rap thing. The tom girl told me he was doing it because gangsters do it to show they have a gun in their pants. But he had nothing, he would just flip it up and I would see his stomach or belt. Made no sense.

This kid was always threatening me, and I don’t know why he mainly singled me out and not anyone else I knew as much. Well he did harass or have insult matches with some of my friends but he mainly targeted me, probably because I was outside more than the others who were playing Nintendo all day, or because I was shy and easy to pick on. My friends would go to 7-Eleven and play Mortal Kombat and I would watch and one time this mean kid found me at 7-Eleven and began insulting me and harassing me and came behind me while I was watching my friend play Mortal Kombat on the arcade machine. He pushed me trying to get me to fight him and he was flicking my ears and laughing in my face, and this lasted for a few minutes. It was extremely humiliating and I was afraid he was going to punch me, but he didn’t. Another time after playing Mortal Kombat at 7-Eleven my friends and I were riding our bikes back to our street and we saw that tomboy girl and one of my dumb and inconsiderate friends decided we should each scream out a fatality move from the game as if we would do them to this bully. I was coaxed into doing it with them and as we rode by one kid said, “I’m going to blow his head off!” (like Raiden’s fatality where he explodes the head with lightening), the dumb and inconsiderate friend who made up this stupid idea said, “I’m going to rip his head off!” (like Sub Zero’s fatality where he pulls off the head with his bare hands), and I finally said, “I’m going to knock his head off!” (like Johnny Cage’s fatality where he knocks the head off with an uppercut). So we rode by her and it was something like this:

*Tomgirl is walking towards us going to the bully’s house in the other neighborhood*

*we 3 ride by fast and yell our fatalities*:

“I’m going to blow his head off!”

“I’m going to rip his head off!”

“I’m going to knock his head off!”

*she smiles and laughs and walks on and we ride off*

WOW THAT WAS SO COOL!!! And we laughed…but unfortunately that only pissed off the bully, and for some reason he ignored what they said and only focused on me saying I will knock his head off. Then he came to my neighborhood and started screaming and going nuts and calling me out to fight. Even my parents heard him and knew he was out there, and my dad said I should fight him. But I was still so afraid. I would like to say that the story ends with an epic fight where I beat him but no it does not. There was never a fight, I never once got to fight him ever. I was too afraid. Eventually this kid moved on and stopped harassing me for some reason but there was never a reason given. He got bored and moved on. He became a cowboy after this and no longer acted like a gangster rapper. He never bothered me again and I would see him with a huge cowboy hat one and he would just not care I was outside and would walk on. Something changed him. Who knows, but I was just glad he did not bother me anymore even though I was full of anger toward him for his bullying. When I started Taekwondo training I knew that if I did have to fight him I would beat him easily. I got over it and also moved on and no longer thought about him.

Around this time in my life and during times when the mean bully from the other neighborhood was not around or was doing other things and it was during a cycle where he was not hanging out with that tomgirl so much I had other issues to deal with. Another couple of bullies was that tomboy herself and 2 mean male twins who lived at the end of my street. The tomgirl would get them to pick on me and call me names and threaten to beat me up. A couple of times I had confrontations and I then finally had my first real fight! The tomgirl and the 2 evil twins confronted me and a friend who were picking grapes from a persons grapevine that hung over a fence. Eventually through all of the threats and insults I got so pissed off. The girl was behind the twins, the older one was in front of her towards me and the younger twin was sitting on a fence and all 3 were insulting us and threatening me and my friend. I got so mad and fed up I just punched the older twin in the jaw, grabbed the back of the other twins shirt and pulled it and sprang him into a punch to his back while I was still holding his clothes which knocked him off balance on the fence. Then the tomgirl, who was very big and strong I might ad (bigger than me), attacked me and I started clinching the older twin and they tackled me and I fell on my back. The tomgirl began to jump double feet onto my chest over and over. My friend pulled them off and then grabbed a metal yard sign and began to attack them. Then some drunk guy across the street came out and said, “You kids get outa here! Stop fighting here!!!” and then me and my friend ran and jumped over a fence and the tomgirl followed in persuit and said, “You may be faster! but I have good balance!!!” We were fighting in someone’s yard on a street corner. Then she proceeded to jump over a fence and when landing on the street she slipped with her shoes on the pavement and skinned her knee. Then I began laughing soooo hard and mocking her about “Ohhh suure you have good balance!” and we ran away. They stopped following us because her knee was bloody. Other times I had confrontations with her and these twins and 3 more times I punched the same older twin in the face on the same spot and would run away and get away. It was a hit and run each time! Over time though, these twins moved away and seemed to calm down and were not under her influence anymore and all 3 stopped bothering me. It was one of those things where you have neighborhood kids who one day are cool with you, then hate you and fight you, then are cool and friendly again later etc., or just plain forget about you. Anyway after this even more problems occurred.

Still there were other mean kids who liked rap music and claimed they were gangsters and would yell “Westsiiiiide!” because of all the Los Angeles gangster rappers like Tu Pac, Ice Cube, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dr. Dre, Westside Connection etc. were popular on MTV. That was the popular music and all the crazy mean white kids who had a troubled family life would pretend they were Crips and try to beat people up. They hated anyone who did not listen to rap. If you were into rock music or skateboarding or punk you would be targeted. It was gangsters vs skaters in this period of time. Skaters were always the victims of their hate. I still knew I needed to take martial arts classes.

During 6th and 7th grade I talked with some kid in my homeschool group who said he was a black belt in Taekwondo. I thought he must be a crazy awesome fighter. He told me how Taekwondo is the worlds most popular martial art and the best because it focuses on kicking. I thought kicking automatically was the best thing you could do and that’s why martial arts won fights. I did not know that Karate focused on the hand, and of course I thought ninjas were cool growing up. This Taekwondo kid was an ATA student. His instructor was a Vietnam veteran, so he told me that he studied “Military Taekwondo” and there is a camo belt because of it. He acted like he could win any fight and was not afraid to fight anyone. I thought it was so cool. One day my mom found out about a local Taekwondo tournament and she took me to go watch. It was a WTF tournament, but I had no clue about that. During the intermission they had a Filipino martial arts demonstration with sticks I thought was cool. 2 guys were showing self defense techniques doing them so fast and then doing them again in slow motion. It was all about fighting and self defense. With this attitude I assumed Taekwondo was also exactly like self defense and serious fighting techniques. I thought it was so cool kids were fighting and even girls were fighting! I saw a brochure by the host dojang who was running the tournament. The dojang was owned by a Korean master. He taught 3 martial arts: Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Judo. The brochure explained each martial art: that Judo focuses on throws and some joint locks, Hapkido focuses on joint locks with kicks, punches, pressure points, and throws, but Taekwondo focuses on kicks, punches, joint locks, pressure points, knees, elbows and is able to fight multiple opponents. So I thought Taekwondo was the best of all 3 and included every move the other 2 had plus tons of amazing kicks and strikes and was a serious fighting system! I thought Taekwondo contained every move of all fighting basically.

After being totally confident that I needed Taekwondo specifically, I told my mom to let me join Taekwondo and that I need to learn how to fight. I had no clue about Taekwondo being a sport and only considered it as a true fighting art that even Korean soldiers use and it gives you skills to fight in real fights including deadly killing techniques. I told my mom that I am 13 so I need to learn now before I get older. So she enrolled me in a WTF affiliated Taekwondo gym certified by the Kukkiwon. She didn’t understand that stuff and neither did I and had no clue there were other organizations etc. I thought a martial art style was simply a martial art style. But my mom saw the advertisement and went to this instructor’s gym with us and he met with us and told us all about his program. We were sold!

The instructor who ran it was a 3rd dan and eventually got his fourth during my time there. I received my black belt under him, but he took us up to see his teacher who was a Korean grandmaster in another city. I tested under that Korean grandmaster to earn my Kukkiwon ranked black belt at age 16. Before earning my black belt I had experienced various tournaments, lots of Taekwondo training and learning self defense, and even competed in a national tournament. Taekwondo gave me tons of confidence and I felt strong, skilled, and ready to fight anyone who attacked me.

Way before black belt though, I had went through 3 years of training and during that training the problems in the suburban streets did not stop. As mentioned earlier there were all those wannabe gangster kids causing problems everywhere. On occasions they would start fights at their school and also ride together on BMX type bikes in packs and threaten to beat people up. Multiple occasions these kids would ride to my street or I would be going to 7-Eleven or some store and they would stop us and threaten to beat us up. Often times we had to ride our bikes super fast to get away or run. One time me and 2 brothers I knew were riding bikes back from 7-Eleven and a car full of these guys drives by and says something which sounded like “Brazil.” But it made no sense. They were listening to loud rap music and then stopped ahead at the corner of this street. They immediately poured out of the car and flashed the “W” hand sign for “Westside.” They began chasing us and we all had to ride our bikes fast and get away. We were lucky because they were going to beat us up. I think at least 7 guys were in that car.

All of this time in Taekwondo training I was being given a lot of confidence and gaining physical skills and learning self-defense techniques. During my training I often did tournament sparring and a lot of our training was sport specific Olympic rules training. I knew there were all kinds of moves like face punches, knife hands, palm strikes, knees etc we were not sparring with but only did them if there was a self-defense technique for the next belt level we had to learn. We never free flowed with such techniques, nor used much live grappling training. We sometimes did hit targets with them for practice, but no sparring. But we did train for multiple opponents a lot and did drills simulating 5 or so people attacking you as well as sparring 2 or more people at the same time. Unfortunately, my training was not enough.

Around blue belt, and after fighting in a national tournament I got disqualified in for kicking someones head too hard, I was attacked by a local gang made out of the wannabe gangster kids. At least 15 guys and a girl or two were at this park. By this time at age 14 I took up skateboarding and listening to hardcore music. I went to a private Christian school in 8th grade and that ATA Taekwondo guy went to my school as well. So after 8th grade we had remained friends and would skateboard together sometimes and talk about martial arts. He had ninja books and various martial arts books I thought were cool. He was the type of kid who said he wanted to be in special forces when he grew up. At age 15 and a blue belt in Taekwondo I spent the night at his house and we skateboarded and even sparred Taekwondo style in his backyard. It was then I knew he sucked and I could beat him easy. He was extremely slow and I was super fast because of my Olympic style training. Later, we went to this middle school to skateboard not too far off and wanted to come back home around 8pm. By this time it had gotten dark and we had to go through a local park to get to his house. It was dark now and as we skated through the park we came out from a clearing in a pathway with trees to the main parking lot. In the parking lot, just our luck, over 15 or more of those gangster wannabe kids were all in the parking lot hanging out. The baddest of the bad of these kids were all there including people I had never seen before. All of the kids were White kids except one Asian kid who seemed afraid and worried and didn’t want to be involved with violence against us. The entire gang followed us and ran after us and eventually surrounded us because we were too dumb to run because the ATA kid had no clue they were following us. When I informed him he says, “huh? what?” and stops and goes to look (what an idiot) and by this time they showed up and surrounded us walking and circling on on both sides looking so menacing. They repeated, “We hate skaters!!!” and began to threaten us and how they are going to kill us. What ended up happening was the very first and so far only serious beatdown of my entire life. It was a huge wakeup call.

It was me, my ATA black belt friend and his little brother with our skatebaords surrounded by a White wannabe Black suburban hip hop gang in the street in front of the park we skated through. The little brother was able to break through and run away. Me and the ATA black belt remained. One gangster kid says “We hate skaters!!!!” and proceeds to walk towards me saying “Give me your board! Now!” and I said “NO! ITS MINE!” He kept demanding it and I was backing away and kept saying no, and I felt threatened and held my skateboard behind me and I then swung my skateboard at his head the hardest possible way I could and…..ting! It was an “oh no” moment realizing my skateboard only half hit his head only knicking the top of his head as the board turned at impact instead of the hard knockout thud I was aiming for where the full board was supposed to smack him in the head, wheels, trucks and all. Right then 5 guys bulldozed me and took me down to the ground punching me like vicious animals. As I landed on the ground I looked up to see a white high top sneaker heading straight toward my face and *BAM!* I was kicked right in the forehead followed by multiple blows from fists and stomps and kicks all over my head, neck, and back. I was recieving an incredible beatdown that lasted what felt like an eternity. Tons of sreaming and cussing and blows from the gang all over me. It could have been anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 seconds long. Either way it was brutal! Somehow the ATA black belt kid threw them off of me and they left beating me up and then attacked him. I got up extremely dazed but I was not knocked out. Right then the kid I hit in the head with the board came up and I was terrified he was going to kill me and get revenge and he demanded my board. Realizing he could turn it into a weapon I threw it over a fence instead. I was then being punched from every direction on my head and face. My ATA black belt friend was being punched too and ended up fighting 1 or 2 guys in the bushes on his back. The sole Asian guy with these White kids was saying “Hey cmon guys lets just fight them one on one ok!” and trying to get them to not attack us because I guess he had some sense even if he was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Anyway, then some gangster wannabe chick appears after we are being beat up and complains that her boyfriends sunglasses were broken. But he had broken them himself beating us up. How annoying! After all this I finally got to a random house and they called the cops and the gang ran away. Apparently, all of the notion I had about Taekwondo being able to defeat multiple opponents did not work in this case.

The next day we were pissed off and mad we got beat up. We talked to the police the night before and our parents both allowed me to stay over at his house anyway. The next day we went skateboarding to defy the gangs orders that we can’t skateboard there anymore. When we were skating down a road a pickup truck with 3 older guys drove by and parked ahead of us at the corner near a stop sign. We thought they were going to attack us because when the truck drove by it swerved toward us. When we stopped going in their direction the driver flashed the “W” sign for “Westside” out of his wonder and we knew they were going to beat us up so we ran behind a fence. The truck turned around screeching and we ran into a random backyard of some old guy’s house. The guys stopped their truck to look for us and got out and they were really huge white guys. We knew they had been told about us and how we got beat up and they saw us skating and were out to stop us. Luckiyl the old guy saw us in his backyard and said “Hey you kids get out of there!!!” and then we told him we were running from guys trying to kill us and then he saw them out front and said “Whats your problem?” and they said nothing and drove off really fast. We ended up talking to the police about it again. We honestly felt these guys including the 15 guys the right before wanted to literally kill us, no joke.

After such instances I realized I need serious fighting skills for self defense for any situation on the streets and I was wondering why me being a Taekwondo practitioner did not save me in this situation. I was a little angry and my mom was also upset at my instructor since nothing I learned helped me. A lack of emphasis on self defense and more on sport started to be promoted at his gym. The understanding I got disqualified for kicking too hard at a national tournament and then got my ass kicked by a gang really made my mother mad. My mom told my instructor, as did I, that I want to know how to really fight! I want real self defense. Otherwise there is no point to train. My instructor then started to teach us more realistic self defense including takedowns and other various things. Honestly it still was not enough but it was better than before. From that point on I realized Taekwondo has to be serious, it has to be full contact, and it has to be about real world fighting and self defense. Not a sport. The sport is just a side thing for fun but not the main goal of training. That is how I felt and still is my opinion today.

Over the years I kept up my Taekwondo training even though the UFC started taking off in popularity with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu claiming to be the only effective martial art in the world as well as Muay Thai guys making fun of Taekwondo. I was able to train under another Korean grandmaster and paid attention to various self defense and even sparred in a real world sense with people who would let me. Over the years I took classes in various other martial arts styles to understand their theories and supplement anything Taekwondo was lacking. I still train in random styles today especially BJJ and boxing. Only one other time did I get into another serious and scary fight. It was before college and I got attacked at a hardcore punk show by some thug and ended up sending him to the hospital. In this instance my Taekwondo saved my life, or at least saved me from serious injury.

With my determination to train Taekwondo realistically for self defense and try my best to perfect it as much as I could for my own bodies abilities and set my mind on serious combat and crisp technique I want to express it to others. I teach Taekwondo to help other people’s lives and give them the same skillset and abilities I have so they can save their lives in self defense situations. I believe Taekwondo is a martial art and is deadly and effective for self defense and should be promoted for such. Otherwise we are falsely advertising our martial art and going to let down a lot of people if they cannot use anything they learned in an actual fight. Taekwondo made a man out of me and greatly strengthened my life and I know it can do the same for my students. Without Taekwondo I would not be who I am today and have a lower quality of life.

The fact popular Taekwondo culture has profaned the martial art of Taekwondo, and has sold out for money and other silly pride inducing things such as showing off with backflips and TKD-dance recitals, really makes me feel sad. Taekwondo was and is a truly hardcore fighting art and this concept is being lost. It should train you to fight bullies and defeat them, handle multiple opponents such as a gang, and other thugs on the street who want to attack you. It should train you to save your life in a fight. So many people will not train in Taekwondo who want to learn self defense or know how to fight, and will thus skip out on a wonderful life experience and instead go to an amoral gym that teaches MMA or whatever the latest combat craze is. Instead, the wrong kind of people will join Taekwondo classes, spoiled brats, egotistical show offs who want to impress people, and other types. Instead of building confidence and strength in a weak person, it will instead poof up the pride of already arrogant kids. The 5 tenets of Taekwondo and the warrior mindset Taekwondo instilled in me is not going to be expressed much in future generations, including those in Taekwondo gyms today since the combative and warrior mindset is not taught and is traded out for dancing and acrobatics and movie fantasy nonsense and sport Taekwondo with its limited techniques. I hope by reading this story someone can be inspired and to train hard in Taekwondo, love the art, and learn self defense; and somehow a remnant will save Taekwondo from the pop-culture masses that have nearly destroyed any worth it has for real fighting. It also has lost respect and its dignity because of this. Even so, I know there are others who love Taekwondo for the truth and just as Taekwondo has strengthened my life, it has and will strengthen theirs.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program.  

 

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Comments
  1. Grey Wolf says:

    Maybe now that people realize that the false advertisement of Taekwondo has personally hurt you in a very tangible way, they will be less quick to judge your severity towards tkd pretenders.

  2. MesYang88 says:

    I read a blog post by Jesse Encamp who had a friend who took up boxing for the same reasons you took up TKD and was let down in a time of need by his boxing skills. The article also talked about the importance of effective and realistic training, of course dealing with karate mainly because that’s what Jesse’s focus is on.

    I’ve seen first hand the disappointment and powerlessness that comes over a TKD practitioner when they realize that the sporty stuff they’ve been training in is actually creating more bad habits than it is good ones. The girl who was the VP of my collage’s TKD club when I was the head instructor ended up quitting TKD for this reason taking up Judo instead. (She had a really good Judo instructor who was more self defense oriented than most.)

    This sort of problem of advertising one thing but delivering another is something all martial arts face. Doesn’t matter if it’s TKD, Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, etc. And there will always be people like us that try to battle that. Unfortunately even when we give students all the tools they need they are put into situations where they just aren’t going to come out on top.

    • White Dragon says:

      Any martial art, if you do not have a good teacher, can disappoint you when it comes to actually use it in a fight. While boxing is very good to know it is extremely limited for self defense unless you only remain standing with punching. It works in the average scuffle, but in a more intense fight with various distances and grabs it does not do enough.

      I personally think that Taekwondo culture is the most notorious for causing this kind of a problem out of any martial art scene in the world. And that is a bad thing, and that is a sad thing.

      You give students the tools they need and never promise them anything but tell them ideas to use and to train your mind to fight. More often than not they should come out on top.

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