Tae Kwon Do
April 20, 2004 7:45 PM
In a class where students learn about strength, flexibility, discipline and a whole lot of kicks, it is hard not to notice that well over half of the students enrolled are women.
Tae Kwon Do, otherwise known at SF State as Kinesiology 151, is a Korean martial art that teaches self-discipline, endurance, integrity, and perseverance, according to Master Park, the instructor.
The class was first taught at SF State by Park four semesters ago, and is yet another one of the activity classes that could be eliminated because of budget cuts.
This is unfortunate for the number of students who enjoy learning about the sport.
Zanlyn Chiew, a green belt majoring in fashion and Japanese, is one of the many women taking the class and the highest ranking student who has received her training only through SF State.
Chiew practices Tae Kwon Do for the exercise as well as for self-defense. "A lot of women don't want to take basic self-defense classes just to learn how to yell "No!" said Chiew. "This is something more that [women] can use inside and outside of class."
Besides being able to defend herself against an attacker, Chiew has learned a lot about respecting others and herself through this martial art form. “But the best part is the kicking,” she said smiling.
Of the 22 girls at class on this particular Wednesday, nearly 25 percent had excelled to a higher level. The belts worn determine how many forms the students have mastered, the black belt being the highest level.
In order to move up students take an exam, at their own pace, where they are asked to perfectly perform a series of moves.
Park said the possible reason more women have colored belts than men could be because women seem to take it more seriously. Men are doing it more for fun, he said. Whatever the reason students take the class, Parks emphasizes the importance of self-respect and self-control within the martial arts.
Tae Kwon Do is indeed an art form. As the class began at 12:10 p.m., about 40 students formed four neat rows to stretch in synchronized silence. The only sounds heard are the shifting of students' bare feet across the padded floor mat, whispers and "tssh" sounds, followed by loud instructions in Korean from Master Park.
After a series of moves, stretches, and defensive Tae Kwon Do stances, the cardio workout begins. Students take turns leaping across the floor doing toe-touches and splits in the air.
By 12:30 some students are looking tired, and every student is breathing heavily.
Sabrina Kim, a physiology major at SF State, started taking the class because her boyfriend recommended it.
Kim wants to stick with it until she receives her black belt. "I like it because it gives you health, strength, and stress-relief." Her favorite part: kicking.
Kim notices that there are a lot of women taking Tae Kwon Do. It could be because of self-defense, or possibly because this kind of training is less about building muscle so that could be a reason for fewer men, she said.
Like Chiew and Kim, kicking seems to be a favorite among the class. About half way through, one student holds a kicking bag in front of their row as students take turns letting out their frustrations and practicing techniques through kicks.
Although most of the students are sweating and looking worn, they continue on, following Master Park's orders to kick and run to the back of the line.
Finally around 12:50, Master Park lines the class up in their initial straight rows to do sit ups and stretch out.
"One more thing," he yells, "push ups!"
The class groans, and a couple girls fall to hug the floor in exhaustion.
Cheryl Mennen chugs a bottle of water after a hard workout. She used to be involved in kickboxing and that is part of what intrigued her to try Tae Kwon Do. During class, her kicks were well-formed, always providing a loud smack as she hit the bag with her foot.
"There's lots to like. It's a good workout, [it] teaches you good fighting techniques, good self defense, and releases a lot of aggression," said Mennen. "For women it's more learning how to fight for self-defense."
Mennen has her orange belt, the third level, after only three months. She wants to continue on until she gets a black belt.
Kirsten Gantenbein, receiving her Masters of Science in biology, agrees that Tae Kwon Do provides a lot of relief and great exercise.
"This is a sport that everyone can be equal, an equal participant," said Gantenbein. "There's no special rules for girls. I like the ability to know how strong you can be."
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