Students enhance body and mind through discipline of martial arts

Savannah Libby | The Chronicle

Tessa Joesph practices her Taekwondo skills.


When someone looks up the word “fighter” on Google, the first image that pops up is a heavyset male wearing boxing gloves with a gaze of anger glossed over his face.

This image, however, changes from culture to culture depending on how the word “fighter” is perceived within a society.

For example in Korea, fighters are often associated with the form of martial arts called Taekwondo, in which the ultimate goal is to develop a peaceful state of mind rather than an aggressive one.

Although there is a physical component to the craft, there is a special emphasis dedicated to developing a mental state that will widen a participant’s understanding of self-discipline.

Sophomore Tessa Joseph, who trains in the martial arts, said one of the first principles that is taught is the importance of fully understanding when skills are necessary to use outside of a controlled environment.

“A protector only performs if absolutely necessary, and only for self defense,” Joseph said. “An aggressor is someone who looks for a fight, whether for emotional release or for some other reason.”

Respect, another important ideal of Taekwondo, requires martial artists to traverse outside of their comfort zones and behave in a more formal manner when interacting with each other. Bowing as well as extending the gesture of a Taekwon, a handshake that resembles respect, before match-ups are used to reflect the moral understanding of equality between classmates, instructors and a competitor themselves.

Senior, Manami Fukuda said that due to consistently practicing martial arts, she has started to notice how other non-martial art athletes greet and treat their coaches, and how that differs from her typical practices.

“[Mason is] so big that sometimes athletes don’t take the time to say ‘thank you’ to their coaches every day after practice,” Fukuda said. “But in martial arts you do, it’s a rule of thumb, and you’re even tasked to clean your own space.”

One of the most valued principles of Taekwondo is the tradition of respecting elders or superiors. Although in every sport, an athlete forms some sort of respectful bond between their coaches, it is much more intense in martial arts.

Formal greetings and gestures are used whenever a participant addresses an instructor. Martial artists are expected to answer with “Yes Ma’am” or “No Sir” when they are addressed by a superior as well.

Joseph said her habits of respecting her elders has not changed over the course of her career, but she has changed her outlook on the atypical rules in order to deepen her relationship with her instructors.

“I had already valued my environment, teachers, and myself,” Joseph said. “But, martial arts has increased my level of respect and gratitude.”

As the nature of the sport relies on the aspect of equality, people from a variety of different backgrounds and skill sets are more willing to start the practice despite their progression levels. Fukuda said that the environment that Taekwondo has given her allowed her to be more comfortable in her abilities and strengths despite her typical struggle to step outside of her comfort zone.

“Generally speaking, I’m not a risk taker, so starting something new was a risk for me, but this one went well,” Fukuda said. “I found that I really enjoy it, and I’ve developed confidence in myself to where I can step out and try something new.”

When she started the sport, Joseph said that the level of respect was always constant regardless of age or progression level, which was able to provide virtually anyone with a way to learn not only self-defense, but also self-discipline.

“Martial arts is a powerful tool, not only physically but mentally as well,” Joseph said. “Everyone should be able to stand up for and defend themselves, and martial arts is one of the best ways to get there.”

Photo contributed by Savannah Libby