Crystel, Antonio, Jody, Beth

Crystel, Antonio, Jody, Beth

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. For four years, I had been sitting with my back against the Do-Jang wall watching Antonio and Crystel progress through the belts. When they became black belts I decided to join.

I told myself and others that it was to help keep the kids interested in Tae Kwon Do. Really, it was because I secretly wanted to join and it took turning 50 to gather the courage.

Not that Antonio and Crystel didn’t liven up a bit when they watched me put on the stiff white uniform. Crystel got this sparkle in her eye. I knew I was in trouble then. Because they have a black belt, they outranked their mom. When they weren’t telling me what to do they were laughing. I always seemed to be a kick behind, a jump behind, a punch behind and pointed in a different direction than the other students. I thought I might be the first person who didn’t progress from a “no-belt” to a white belt.



It was a source of pride for me when after five classes that white belt was placed around my midsection. At Kor Am Tae Kwon Do, the adults and children take classes together and I’m sure that my smile was just as wide as the five-year-old that started class at the same time as I did. And, I’m pretty sure he was already better than me.



The exercise time that I spent running was now being eaten up by three to four classes a week at Tae Kwon Do. At first, I was disappointed. I wasn’t getting the same type of workout. Doing Tae Kwon Do, I wasn’t even sweating. I was such a klutz in class and had such a slow learning curve that it was a personal challenge just to show up and take my place at the back of the room.

I persevered and started noticing benefits. With the twenty minutes or so of exercises that we did at the beginning of class I found that I was able to stretch my legs more than I had in years. I also felt more in tune with my body. We used so many muscles groups exercising that I knew myself better. So, even though, I was only running on the weekends, I felt like I was in better shape because I was just so much more aware of my whole body.



Kihap (the yell that is shouted when practicing Tae Kwon Do) is the hardest thing for a new student to do. The yell often sounds like “Haaaa!” or “Ahoe!”  The kihap is designed to regulate breathing, and can be used to intimidate, distract, or startle your opponent which can cause the effect of “freezing” your opponent momentarily just prior to a strike. For me, I think of it as in terms of my personal statement. Me saying, “I’m here! Take notice of me! This is my space!” But even though, I’m not known to be shy, it took many classes for me to find my voice.

I love that in Tae Kwon Do you are expected to be loud and defend yourself. I don’t know of any place else where you are not only given the right to defend yourself but it is expected. I used to be concerned that in a dangerous situation where there was a threat of being assaulted that I would lose my voice or become immobile. I don’t worry about that anymore. Tae Kwon Do has taught me what I can do.

Role playing. I disarmed the bad guy.

Role playing. I disarmed the bad guy.

Sparring is my favorite discipline of Tae Kwon Do. I enjoy when I can kick a person in the head. That accomplishment hasn’t come without me being on the receiving end of a few black eyes, bloody noses and sore ribs. Still, there isn’t any quit in me.

A part of the membership oath of Kor-Am Tae Kwon Do School is that we are united in mutual friendship. I feel a kinship with everyone from the youngest member to the oldest member, belt and age-wise.

And especially with the people on whom I get to practice my strikes.

This entry was posted in Age, Exercise, Family, Tae Kwon Do and tagged , , , , , , by Elizabeth di Grazia. Bookmark the permalink.

About Elizabeth di Grazia

An artist, I follow the nudge inside of me. This nudge led me to write Peace Corps stories, find the front door to the Loft, and to graduate from Hamline’s MFA program. The story that became my thesis for Hamline is woven into my book manuscript: HOUSE OF FIRE: From the Ashes, A Family, a memoir of healing and redemption. It’s a story about family. And a story about love–for my partner Jody and the son and daughter we adopted from Guatemala. Most days, I can be found working as a Human Resource Manager for a foundry in Minneapolis. When I am not at the foundry I may be volunteering as a Police Reserve Officer for Richfield, MN or kicking butt at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do.


  1. When I took Tae Kwon Do, the spiritual aspect of philosophy and comportment was most interesting to me. I never liked getting bruised. The first day I broke a board I was on Cloud 9. Now I am not on Cloud 9, except when we kick butt in the air…:)

    Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2013 16:44:48 +0000 To:


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