Many people may not know about it, but Adrian College has had a Tae Kwon Do club for the past 16 years. The club meets every Sunday 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. and every Wednesday from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Mahan dance studio.
Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art. The literal translation of the words Tae Kwon Do means, “the kicking and punching way.” Although the definition includes both, this type of martial arts focuses more on kicking than punching, and also focuses on blocking attacks as well as initiating them.
AC’s Tae Kwon Do club training is provided by the Black Dragon’s Den, an independent school that originated in Adrian. Janet Salzwedel professor of biology and pre-health science advisor, instructs the club’s lessons, and has earned her black belt and 4th Degree Masters through Black Dragon’s Den. She’s been practicing Tae Kwon Do for 21 years.
Anyone who is interested is welcome to show up and give it a try at any point during the academic calendar year. Men and women of any age can attend and costs are optional and reasonable. New members start off by wearing white belts, but many have worked their way up throughout their time doing Tae Kwon Do and have graduated with black belts.
The order in which each colored belt is earned is white, yellow, yellow belt with a stripe, green, green belt with a stripe, blue, blue belt with stripe, red, red belt with a stripe and first degree black belt. From there, degrees increase as the student spends more years practicing the art.
John Todaro participates in Tae Kwon Do at AC. His wife is a professor here.
“[I] like the workout and learning the discipline,” said Todaro.
A typical class is usually mixed and includes students of all levels. All participants must bow toward the floor at the start of class, before beginning with meditation, which is then followed by stretching. Next, the instructor leads the students through warm up exercises and calisthenics. The remaining time is spent doing various exercises to offer whatever instruction is needed for the level that each individual student is at.
During instruction, students respond to Master Salzwedel’s questions by saying, “Yes, ma’am,” or, “No, ma’am.”
Salzwedel leads exercises and also offers the Korean translations of each aspect of the art that is being covered.
One class included what are called “one step drills.” These drills are a way to practice self-defense by repeating the standard attack of a punch to the nose. The attacker’s practice partner is taught the reflex of blocking the attack and responding with a counter-attack.
During the session, students also practiced multiple kicks. Back kicks are for more power and front kicks are for more speed. The kicks, which all students practice simultaneously to the count of the instructor, improve balance and effectively shifting one’s weight. After practicing the balance aspect of the exercise, students practice kicking pads and kicking legs, as well as switching the person holding the pads.
Students view Tae Kwon Do club as a convenient outlet for the stress that they encounter in their every day lives.
“Tae Kwon Do is a really good opportunity to train my reflexes and [it] gives me a mental break from everything I have to do,” said junior David Brockway.
Last week, Tae Kwon Do members worked on running jump side-kicks. The ideal kick combines a fast run with a powerful jump and a quick snap of the leg.
Near the end of the class, students spar against each other and the instructor. During this event, students wear gloves and bow before and after each session. The instructor watches for light contact hits and strong technique. The class ends with meditation and breathing exercises.
One AC alumnus also helps with instruction occasionally. Fourth Degree Master Don Lilly works in Tecumseh, but comes back to Adrian occasionally to help teach Tae Kwon Do. He started at AC as a white belt.
Students take tests with Salzwedel and her superior, Eighth Degree Master Rodriguez, in order to advance to another colored belt.
“It’s a great feeling to see confidence and skill building from the people who take the classes,” said Salzwedel. “I get to see them transform as they become confident, strong and balanced in both mind and body.”
AC hosts a Tae Kwon Do regional tournament every March in the Merillat Center. Judging is based on form, weapons forms, sparring and board breaking. Students come from Ohio, Indiana and other parts of Michigan to compete.