This article will hold true for many martial arts, but I see it on a daily basis in Taekwon-Do circles. I often find myself asking, “Who is Taekwon-Do for?” In this case, I am referring to what age bracket Taekwon-Do is most suited to. It will often come down to perception and culture – every country, community and group may have a different opinion on this depending on how it is trained, and who trains in it.
Most commonly, though, one group sticks out predominantly when you ask the man on the street what he thinks or knows about Taekwon-Do… kids. It is an activity practiced by little children for fun in the afternoon and on weekends and is a great activity to integrate into three year olds birthday parties. It is also a great after-school, baby-sitting and daycare enterprise. What in hell has this world come to?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it is incredibly important for kids to train (in fact I think it should be compulsory) but at the same time I find this to be an incredibly sad perception. Taekwon-Do is very much an adult’s martial art but, unfortunately, the McDojang syndrome has taken effect in a big way and so many schools have bastardised themselves to milk the cash cow. Taekwon-Do has been watered down so much in most places that it has truly become only suitable for children to practice. To be a Taekwon-Do instructor in today’s world it seems that being trained as a child-minder is the only pre-requisite. It seems to have gone to the extent that schools that offer adult classes just replicate the training and syllabus that the little kids do. No wonder so many people think Taekwon-Do is a joke. Adults looking for a martial art to train in are, “looking for something more grown up to do.” Sadly, many adult martial artists that started in Taekwon-Do are training in other art forms now and are either too embarrassed to admit their origins or they bad mouth it as a rubbish, childish activity that they used to do. This is a disgrace and shouldn’t be the case but, given the current situation, I can’t say that I blame them.
Every age group has different needs that should be catered to. Many instructors cannot differentiate because they are products of the current system. One syllabus doesn’t fit all. The way an adult trains should be quite different to the way a child does. Yes, there are certain similarities, but the focus should change. With age comes maturity (and hopefully self-control), therefore the training should change. Taekwon-Do should not be PG rated. It should have edited adaptations and when people are old and mature enough, they get to watch the age appropriate version. You can’t teach a little child how to kill – that would just be irresponsible and stupid. Likewise, you can’t expect adults to spend their evenings playing Musical Kicks.
The Taekwon-Do of the past, which was very much for military use, is a far cry from what is seen today. What started as a killing art has become a laughing stock. Does its short but proud history end like this? Does the towering tree become a wilted flower?
Over the next weeks I will be putting up articles relating to kids, teens and adults training. I hope it will be clear that Taekwon-Do, in reality, is not only appropriate, but highly effective and useful for all age brackets, adults included.