A deep sense of focus falls over the mat as the students of taekwondo begin to practice their first form of Pumse. Their bodies move slowly, with purpose, as they follow the instructions of their teacher, Amber Wadsworth.
Pumse is the deceleration of taekwondo, with an emphasis on technique. The first form involves many different kicks and punches. Amber uses this time to correct the technique of her students. As she walks across the mat, she stops next to Tommy Blank and Jerry Murphy who are both students and friends of each other. Amber points out subtle changes they should make to improve their technique. She recommends they adjust their hips during kicks for greater efficiency. “Amber is very technically competent, as well as being able to slow down each movement,” says Jerry.
Amber hopes that the discipline she teaches in the intro taekwondo class carries over to other parts of student’s lives too. The nitty-gritty technicalities within taekwondo can be challenging, but through practice it becomes easier. It teaches students a diligent focus and dedication that can be used on so many things, like schoolwork, professional tasks, and any other obstacle they might encounter.
Tommy and Jerry are both seniors studying Material Science and Engineering, and met one another via zoom in their Material Properties lab class. After building their friendship, they chose taekwondo as a fun class they could take together. Both agree they made the right decision and really enjoy learning the martial art of taekwondo.
“We are here to practice taekwondo, not to worry about life,” says Tommy. Both students mentioned that the focus required during taekwondo doesn’t allow room for thoughts about school or life. This becomes more obvious when they start sparring. When they’ve learned the fundamentals and techniques required within Pumse, students can participate in sparring. Sparring is much faster and more contact-oriented than Pumse. As soon as the sparring begins, the room feels filled with energy.
Tommy has found that he feels more connected with his Korean heritage because of his participation in taekwondo. In addition to learning the Korean language on his own time, commands and movements of taekwondo are also helping him build his vocabulary. He enjoys building his knowledge of Korean culture and engulfing himself within the martial art.
Jerry appreciates the exercise he gets from taekwondo and enjoys working out in a way that incorporates time with friends and unique movements he wouldn’t otherwise get to practice at the gym. For him, it’s a more enjoyable way of being active as compared to walking on a treadmill or lifting weights. As a result of his time in the class, he’s noticed his flexibility improve as well as his mental health.
Tommy and Jerry both take turns practicing their sparring techniques against Amber. In order to prevent injury, all students wear protective gear including helmets, chest guards, groin guards, forearm, and shin guards. They deliver powerful blows that are blocked by the intensive padding on Amber. Tommy plants his feet and swings his hip as he delivers a strong punch. He maintains his balance and follows with a high kick to the torso. He executes the movements with ease, connecting with each movement, expelling his full focus and intention into the activity. Jerry follows next, pushing himself to use the skills he has practiced. The class watches closely, cheering him on and taking note of his technique. As the timer rings, they stop sparring.
Amber tells all the students to pick a partner and prepare to spar. This is Jerry and Tommy’s chance to go up against each other—two buddies in friendly competition.
They bow to one another out of tradition and respect, then give one another a high five to signal the beginning of the match. They step back from one another, bouncing, agile and ready for any attack. Tommy makes the first move by quickly approaching Jerry and kicking his right leg toward Jerry’s midsection, but misses as Jerry turns quickly, and uses a spinning counter-kick of his own. Both absorb the contact of the blow, recover, and face each other once again. This time Jerry attacks first, with a punch to Tommy’s chest pad. This dance continues as one strikes and the other reciprocates. Neither combatant will let their guard down until the alarm goes off again. An even match. They smile and give each other a high five. It was a good session and the two are spent.
Both Tommy and Jerry have found a love for taekwondo and as they wrap up their last semester at Boise State. “Taekwondo is a great way to be active and interact with friends and help with stress throughout the semester,” says Jerry. Both Tommy and Jerry are preparing to start their professional careers, but plan to stick with taekwondo even after they graduate. When they leave the class, they will be taking an advanced white belt with them, earned after completing a test at the end of the semester. To have found this kind of outlet and community is something both of them don’t want to lose. What started out as just a fun class to take with a friend has turned into a practice of discipline, endurance, and camaraderie; skills they hope to hone for the foreseeable future.
BroncoFit Introduction to Taekwondo takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 – 3:50 p.m. The class accepts all skill levels and encourages anyone to try! If you’re interested in signing up for a class or have questions about BroncoFit, please contact BroncoFit Activities Coordinator, Kevin Blume at email@example.com.