Tae Kwon Do for Fitness

Martial art training keeps this instructor and her class in high gear.

By Kristina Eelkema Hylton, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Woman demonstrating tae kwon do pose.

Woman demonstrating tae kwon do pose.

Playing volleyball, competing in soccer and shooting hoops were the activities I used to rely on for exercise. But when a friend introduced me to the martial art known as tae kwon do (pronounced "tie-kwan-doe"), it became my major source of fitness and started me on the journey of a lifetime.

Tae kwon do is a traditional Korean martial art and a modern Olympic sport that is gaining in popularity. It's practiced by people of all ages and backgrounds and combines aerobic activity with exercises that increase strength and agility.

Besides helping me lose weight and tone my muscles, the sport has improved my concentration, memory and confidence while also teaching me self-defense strategies. In addition to the physical benefits it offers, tae kwon do is grounded in the teachings of respect, determination and self-control.

Before I knew it, tae kwon do was getting me into shape like no other activity had done before. The more I learned, the more fun I had and the more motivated I was to stick with it.

After a few years of hard work, I reached black-belt status (students can attain mini-goals along the way by passing a variety of color belt tests). I now own a tae kwon do school where my husband, Shane, and I teach more than 100 students. I get good workouts regularly both by practicing and teaching tae kwon do.

An Ageless Art

Age is not an issue when it comes to tae kwon do. My students range in age from 5 to 51, but I know a 60-year-old who teaches tae kwon do…and she instructs a woman in her 80s!

My older students say that leg kicks and other exercises help relieve arthritic pain and improve balance and flexibility.

One middle-aged student had broken several bones in his back in a snowmobile accident…and attributed his speedy recuperation to his tae kwon do training. He was even able to return to class and exercise before his recovery was complete. That's because tae kwon do lets you work around health issues and trouble areas, no matter what they are.

Lifelong Journey

Achieving my black belt was a motivating goal for me, but not the final destination on this lifelong journey. Working toward my black belt made me aware of my love of teaching, the desire to open a school of my own and the need to become as proficient as possible in this exciting sport.

As my body becomes healthier through tae kwon do, I continue to learn new things about myself and what I can accomplish. And to me, that is one of the most important rewards.