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      24.02.2001 20:10
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      If like me, you are looking for something to get you fitter, respect your body more and install some discipline into your life Tae Kwon Do may just be what you are looking for! Tae Kwon Do ("the art of hand and foot") is a Korean martial art with characteristics similar to various Japanese and Chinese martial arts. What distinguishes it from other systems is its spectacularly powerful kicking techniques. Apart from self-defence, Tae Kwon Do benefits students of the art physically, mentally and philosophically in the following ways: ~ Improves of general fitness - especially co-ordination, toning, flexibility and strength ~ Promotes improved confidence, discipline, self-control and reduces stress ~ A philosophy which includes honesty, courtesy, respect and perseverance Like many martial arts, progression works on a grading system - in Tae Kwon Do's case coloured belts are used: white, yellow, green, blue, red and black. Before reaching black belt grade (of which there are nine), students are graded twice before moving up a belt. With regular training, students can progress fairly quickly through the grades in the first year, and it should take between two and three years to reach the first black belt grade. A typical Tae Kwon Do lesson lasts for one to two hours, starting with a fairly vigorous warm up and stretching exercises. The rest of the lesson is usually devoted to learning and improving techniques used in sparring, patterns and breaking. Free sparring requires the use of protective wear such as a mouth guard, groin guard and hand/feet pads. The degree of physical contact used when sparring varies from organisation to organisation - most falls somewhere between semi and full contact, with full contact requiring further protection. Head and back contact are not permitted; neither are sweeping or grappling techniques. In terms of injuries, fe
      et blisters and bruised forearms and shins are fairly common amongst beginners. More serious injuries include nosebleeds and bruised ribs. Note that excessive contact is not tolerated in Tae Kwon Do schools. If you feel uncomfortable about what you see or the instructor's attitude, there are plenty of alternative schools to choose from. Step sparring involves opponents performing a set number of attack or defence techniques against each other. This may be a predefined set of moves, or ones decided by one protoganist, which the other must act against. The purpose of step sparring is to improve accuracy, speed and choice of technique. Patterns consist of a series of attack and defence steps carried out against an imaginary opponent and are designed to improve technique and allow a student to practice moves without a partner. All patterns are based on important events or figures in Korean history and the way they are performed reflects their meaning. To perform a pattern well requires a lot of concentration and much practice. Breaking is the destruction of materials such as wood or tiles using hand or foot techniques. As well as providing a great confidence boost, it is used to demonstrate a student's progress as the speed, power and technique of their moves evolves. Rather than waste lots of wood, breaking is generally performed using re-usable interlocking plastic boards, which are about a foot square. Young students are not permitted to break boards. Most Tae Kwon Do demonstrations involve a variety of impressive flying kicks combined with board breaking. Unlike many other sports, initial costs are very low, which encourages newcomers to see if Tae Kwon Do is right for them before making a financial commitment. Beginners can survive with tuition fees alone up to the point of the first grading, which normally take place after four to eight weeks of training. Some schools carry a collection of spare pads, which
      beginners can use to become accustomed to sparring. For the first grading, students will need to purchase the Tae Kwon Do uniform, which should cost around £40. A basic set of protective wear should cost no more than £50. Tuition fees should fall between £4 and £8 per lesson, with most instructors offering discounts for block booking to encourage students to train regularly. Since taking up Tae Kwon Do 6 months ago I feel like a different person, I can stick to a regime and I believe more in myself. I feel more assertive and feel that I can now say no. Price indicated below £100.00 is overall for getting yourself started.

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