Updated: Apr 17
Amy Pullen, 1st degree black belt, has been training in Taekwon-do at Worcestershire Martial Arts for the majority of her life. Amy, now 12, started in the young kids classes - Tinykwon-do (previously Little Ninjas) - at age 5, then moved up to mixed adults and kids classes when she was 8.
Training in traditional martial arts offers many positive benefits for kids, from developing confidence, instilling discipline and contributing to a healthy lifestyle. In this blog post, Amy describes how training in Taekwon-do from a young age has shaped her childhood.
It was originally a joint decision between Amy and her mum, Jo, for Amy to start training in Taekwon-do. Jo says, “I think it was parent influence to start with; she wanted to try something that children can have fun in, is a sporting activity, social and useful for future self-defence.” However, she says that Amy wanted to go herself after a while: “When she went on to Taekwon-do we didn’t force her, she wanted to do it. We handed the reins over and it’s all down to Amy.”
What have you gained from training in Taekwon-do?
Amy says, “It’s made me more confident, I know how to defend myself so I’m not scared as in that point. I’ve also felt a lot more confident in more social situations than I would have done.”
Jo has seen changes in Amy since she started Taekwon-do, particularly a growth in confidence: “When she was very young and she first started she wasn’t a very confident person. I think it’s taught her to come out of her shell a lot and be confident. As a parent, being able to see your child progress from being shy to be able to teach a class of all ages… it’s really nice watching her grow. It has influenced her throughout her life.”
Amy adds, “I think I’ve become a lot more disciplined in my life... I’m better at studying from it as well, from having to revise the theory.”
Amy says that working on her confidence has been the most challenging aspect of her training: “I’ve gone through a lot of confidence issues... other than that it’s just been going up the belts.”
Do you think that training in Taekwon-do can help to diffuse ‘bullying culture’ in schools?
Amy says, “Definitely. It’s not learning to fight, it’s learning to defend yourself… it’s also mental discipline and you learn that bullying isn’t right.”
One of the core values (though not a tenet) of Taekwon-do is treating others with respect both in and outside of the dojang. The culture of respect in Taekwon-do, particularly respect for teachers, can instill good values in kids that can carry over to school and home life.
Amy explains, “It’s not that you’re just told what to do [in class], you follow and respect your seniors and instructors.”
A respectful attitude can also be beneficial for dealing with arguments and disagreements in a positive way. As kids approach the teenage years, their interests, views and opinions can change rapidly as they try to work out ‘who they are’, which sometimes leads to ‘clashes’ with others. One thing that stands out about Amy is her mature attitude to dealing with conflict - a maturity that is not always seen in adults!
Amy says, “I don’t have many disagreements… other than my friends bickering - at [our] age you’re going to bicker.” She says that approaching disagreements with a respectful mindset and trying to see the situation “from the other person’s point of view” can help to diffuse arguments. This is a great attitude that she can eventually take into employment.
What attitude do you think people can take outside of the dojang back into their everyday lives?
“All the tenets,” Amy says, “courtesy - they should be polite to everybody, treat everybody nicely.” She lives by the tenets in her everyday life, and says that these values are the most important thing to take away from training in a traditional martial art: “[Students] have got to follow the tenets. If you don’t follow them, there’s not much point as they are the basis of Taekwon-do. It’s not just the physical discipline, it is a mental discipline you have to be respectful to everybody else as well… I think they should carry on how they are in [the dojang], respectful and [observing] the tenets.”
Amy is currently focusing on training for her 2nd dan but has had some experience teaching classes, including the mandatory 10 hours for her 1st dan grading.
How has teaching helped you to develop?
Amy says, “I feel more able to help someone else learn something from teaching the classes, [such as] teaching someone else a maths problem. It’s definitely easier. I feel like it’s easier to talk someone [through it] from being here and [teaching].”
How do you get into a competition mindset?
Amy says, “You can’t think that you’re going to lose. If you go in thinking you’re not going to do well there, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to go in thinking you’re going to try your hardest and just put it all out on the table... why did you drive here to not put it all out on the table for 60 seconds?”
What’s your favourite thing about Taekwon-do?
Amy says she enjoys the patterns the most, as she likes the structure, and that the atmosphere of Worcestershire Martial Arts has contributed to her continued training too: “It’s like a little family,” she says, “it’s not like you’re just being taught, you have social interaction too.”
Amy sees herself training in Taekwon-do for a long time, and she hopes to do more teaching as well.
By Georgie Bull