Talkin' Taekwondo: Creating an Adaptive Taekwondo Class at Hand-in-Hand

My name is Amanda Berryhill and I am in my third year of the doctorate occupational therapy program at St. Ambrose. I have also been a martial artist for 12 years and have my 2nd degree black belt in Taekwondo. In the process of working on my doctorate in the occupational therapy program, I have had the opportunity to research and develop my knowledge on occupational therapy and its use in Taekwondo classes. My doctoral project is to create and lead an adapted Taekwondo program for individuals with disabilities. The project applies an occupational therapy focus to modify classes and environments to improve social participation within a Taekwondo class setting. Changes needed can include environment changes (ex. mobility or sensory needs), visual schedules, or increased visual, touch, or verbal cues.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists (OT’s) work with a wide range of individuals to help them become independent and functional in their daily activities. “Occupations” are the meaningful activities that someone needs and wants to do during their daily lives. These activities can range from dressing tasks to social participation within the community. Interventions can include helping children to be successful in school and social participation, helping in the recovery from injury, and providing supports for older adults (AOTA, 2014). OT’s often work on self-care, bathing, dressing, home management, caregiving, leisure, work, social participation, sleep, and more!

Background of Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a traditional Korean martial art that works to train the body and the mind. When breaking down the word Taekwondo, “Tae” refers to foot, “Kwon” refers to fist, and “Do” refers to discipline (United States Olympic Committee, 2017). “In Taekwondo the principle of physical movements, the principle of mind training, and the principle of life become one and the same” (United States Olympic Committee, 2017, para. 7). Students of Taekwondo are taught and live by the five tenets while learning the physical movements of self-defense. These tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit (Roesner, 2012). Students learn self-defense techniques along with these tenets while on their personal journey to master this martial art. This martial art is not to promote violence, but to promote a sense of personal growth of both body and mind.

Research about Taekwondo

There has been a growing knowledge and use of alternative therapies such as Yoga or Tai Chi within our society. These alternative therapies have been shown to increase motor functions and quality of life for many individuals and have strong therapeutic potential (Li, Dong, Cheng, & Le, 2016). Tai Chi and Yoga both combine physical and mental practices that therefore show increased outcomes and quality of life for those who participate (Li et al., 2016). Traditional Karate, that has similar teachings, has revealed to have mental health impacts as well (Palermo & Greydanus, 2011). Along with Tai Chi, Yoga, and Karate, Taekwondo may have the potential to be titled as an alternative therapy in the future. Taekwondo has been stated by its instructors and organizations to have many benefits, both physical and cognitive, to those who become students. “Taekwondo advertises and markets itself by not only promoting the physical aspects of the sport, but also by promoting character development of those who practice it” (Roesner, 2012, p. 1) as demonstrated through the five tenets. Some benefits reported in studies of Taekwondo include, but are not limited to, balance, strength, coordination, body awareness, emotional regulation, self- confidence, character development, self-discipline, social participation and more! Taekwondo has recently been suggested as a therapeutic leisure activity for children (Fong, Tsang, & Ng, 2012).

My Personal Taekwondo Story

When I was between the ages of 5 to 10 years old, my siblings and I were always in dance classes. Our dance instructor was retiring and my parents started to look for other activities for us kids to enjoy. My mother brought up Taekwondo and only my little brother was interested. I was too young to stay home by myself so I got to tag along to watch my brother try out a class. During the class he was having trouble with a move. I remember thinking “I understand what they are saying…. I could do it better than he is doing it.” My mom heard me try to whisper how to do the move to my brother and encouraged me to get out on the floor with the rest of the students. Through the encouragement of my mom and the Taekwondo instructor, I did. Only to show I was better than my little brother of course!

Taking that chance to join the class completely changed my life and has greatly influenced the person I am today. When this quiet and shy 10 year old with frizzy red hair stepped into that line beside her brother, she had no idea it would become a major part of her life. During my time in dance classes, I was always comparing myself to others and never felt like I was able to completely “keep up”. I never felt that way during my years of Taekwondo training. Taekwondo has a “family” atmosphere and focuses on working to better yourself. You work hard to do something a little better than you did the day before. The goal is not to compare yourself to others, but is to encourage others to do their personal best. While I became stronger, faster, and more flexible, as to be expected, I also became more confident, outgoing, a leader, and an overall kind person. Taekwondo’s focus on the five tenets (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, and indomitable spirit) promoted a positive character development within myself. I became more confident in my abilities and quickly learned to be a leader and teacher for others. I became more outgoing and was willing to talk to others within the community. I had grown that confidence talking to and teaching others in the class. It helped more than just physically, it also helped me cognitively and in my way of thinking and self-confidence.

Taekwondo has had such a positive influence on my own life, I want to see it have the same benefits for others within all communities. My studies to become and occupational therapist have also allowed me the opportunities and tools to be able to adapt Taekwondo to promote participation for all who wish to become a Taekwondo student.

#taekwondo #adaptivesports #adaptiveprograms #occupationaltherapy #disabilities

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