Taekwondo Training: Why Everybody Can Get Into This Modern Martial Art
by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: May 24, 2016
Blocks, punches, open-handed strikes, take-downs or sweeps - it’s all part of the fun when you study the martial art of taekwondo. We speak to Open Colleges’ Program Manager for Fitness, Robert Bikesic about his love for the sport.
How much action can you handle in your life? For some of us, a simple run on a treadmill just doesn’t cut it. Increasingly, people of all ages and fitness levels are looking to mix up their workouts and add new training disciplines into their routines.
Taekwondo is a Korean branch of learning developed during the 1940s which combines elements of Karate and Chinese Martial Arts. Its enthusiasts range from primary school kids to professional fitness trainers, including Open Colleges manager, Robert Bikesic from Fairfield in New South Wales. Robert and his family run a Sydney taekwondo school called “Fitness and Sports Taekwondo” (or FAST Taekwondo), and here he tells us why the sport is so popular.
Hi Robert! Firstly, tell us about what you do here at Open Colleges.
I’ve been working at Open Colleges almost three years as a Program Manager, where I assist and manage trainers and assessors for our fitness courses, as well as working with students.
My role also involves going through the course content and making sure that it’s constantly up-to-date, and making sure it fits to strict to industry standards, which are always evolving. I make sure Open Colleges’ online courses meet the requirements that students want, attend to any technical glitches, or [update] something in the course content. We aim to pick up any amendments and make sure they’re fixed as soon as possible.
So would the fitness portfolio be a space where information gets updated quickly because of new trends in the industry?
That’s right. We’re trying to constantly keep up-to-date by visiting industry specialists. We also have team members that are highly involved and engaged within the fitness industry that keep us up-to-date as well. So, through this, we all try to work together and collaborate to ensure that we keep our content up to date.
You have a special interest in taekwondo. Tell me about this - it’s actually a thing that a lot of your family does, is that correct?
That’s correct. So, basically, I’ve been doing it for the last 17 years. My brother and I both started when we were really young and it’s something that brought me into the fitness and health industry because I love doing sport.
I was never really someone that was academically inclined when I was in high school, I was always into different types of sport but there was something about taekwondo that really stood out to me.
I’ve now been competitively involved in taekwondo for 15 years, and still competing! I am working towards a New South Wales taekwondo event later on this year and my eventual goal is to enter a national event over the next couple of years.
How does taekwondo differ from other martial arts? What are its unique characteristics?
Mixed martial artists (like those who fight for UFC) utilise a range of different type of modern martial art and bring it into a sports-like environment, whereas with taekwondo, it’s more technically-based.
It’s almost like form of fencing - without actually using swords. You could compare it to kickboxing where you use the lower half of your body and your legs more. There are more points provided to the “attacking person” if they “score” or “hit” the opponent with their feet, than if they actually punch the opponent.
Do you ever get injured during taekwondo? Is it more about contact, or making those hits?
Traditionally, taekwondo is about contact. The sport has changed a little bit and has moved more towards sparring – more of a light contact sport, depending on which weight division that you’re in. So, I can vouch that for the first time that I went into my own open categories division, at age 16, I actually had two broken ribs!
I’ve had fractured eye sockets, dislocated fingers, torn hamstrings – there’s been quite a few different injuries! Most of them have been training-related as opposed to actually happening during a fight. When you’re in fight, you don’t get as injured but there is a lot of bruising.
Some quicks facts on taekwondo:
- Taekwondo ranks are typically separated into “junior” and “senior,” or “student” and “instructor,” sections.
- Taekwondo training also includes a comprehensive system of blocks, punches, open-handed strikes, various take-downs or sweeps, throws, and some joint locks like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
- In taekwondo, Korean language commands are often used. Korean numerals may be used as prompts or commands.
- The Taekwondo Belt System consists of six colours of belts: white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black.
- The current system that FAST Taekwondo uses is the one on the far right with only yellow, blue and red.
Tell me a little bit about some of the children that you train.
With taekwondo, there is an incorrect assumption that it’s male-dominated – but it’s not! There are many young kids; little boys and girls involved. It’s really rewarding. I believe it’s really important for them in regards to their self-confidence, being able to apply themselves.
You find that a lot of kids come in and struggle with being able to focus on tasks. And to be able to develop this, and to learn how to socialise with other children at the same age, is really beneficial to them.
In society, there is a fundamental issue with children not partaking in physical activity and being stuck indoors on tablets and screens and being isolated. So, being able to provide a service to children where they’re getting involved in physical activity, socialising and learning from each other, benefits them a great deal.
Can you explain a little bit about what Pandemonium is?
Pandemonium is a program that we run for our members. We take them through a military-style obstacle course annually or biannually. We build teams, and try to get each team to work together. The idea is to show people that you don’t have to have a structured exercise routine to keep fit. It’s all about having fun, and being able to partake in any type of physical activity.
You’ve represented New South Wales in the National Taekwondo Competitions, and you’re competing this year?
My aim is to compete in the New South Wales state competitions; there’s one in August and one in November. That will help me develop my skills and see where I’m at, so by 2017 I’ll have an opportunity to compete in a national competition.
Do you get sort of nervous competing? Is it a mentally challenging thing to have to do?
Yes. So, when you are in competitions - no matter how many you go to - there will always be a level of nerves and over-excitability. So, I aim to expose myself to (pre-competition stress) as much as possible. So, having these two competitions this year will help to get rid of the jitters, and settle me before I go into any larger competitions in the following year.
Are the skills that you learn through formal study beneficial when you go into the real world to look for a job?
Yes, absolutely. When it comes down to it, formal study does actually benefit you a lot. It provides the foundations in regards to how you communicate. Your professionalism is very important, especially when it comes to working in the fitness industry.
In the fitness industry, how you portray yourself and your level of professionalism is really important. When you come from a study and learning environment where you’ve learned how to do these things, formally via study, you excel.
Also, if you’ve been mentored by experienced professionals, that allows you to build on your skills and portray yourself successfully in a professional environment. I believe that Open Colleges provides this to our students. The resources that we have from our trainers and assessors that are actively involved in the fitness industry also helps.
What’s the main personality trait of a good fitness professional?
Remember that fitness is not just about having an awesome body but it’s about practising what you preach. You’re pretty much an advertisement or a marketing tool of your own product. So, you want to be able to show people that you can do what you say that you do.
If you’re ready to kick-start a career in Fitness, check out the Open Colleges Careers Centre for information on expected salaries, job roles, gender split and industry growth.