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Tae Kwon Do club seeks balance

Tae Kwon Do is a practice predicated on building a peaceful world. The Korean art encourages the development of the individual, through training and ritual, by providing the keys to fulfilling mental, physical and spiritual potential. For interested students at Portland State University, those keys may be found with the help of the Tae Kwon Do club.

Meeting each Friday morning at 11:30 p.m. in the Peter Stott Center, the club fosters a community of 20 members along the path to “ki,” or the development of a total being. Under the instruction of Grand Master Choi, members train for the opportunity to spar at the five to six tournaments that the club attends each year.

“We just had a tournament in Scappoose,” club leader Raphael DeFranco said. “The club travels to tournaments from Eugene up to Seattle.”

The next tournament will be held at Mt. Hood Community College on Nov. 3. Tournaments provide members of the dojang, or training group, the opportunity to spar with others in ascending the hierarchy of belts. Each belt represents an achievement within the art. The white belt signifies the birth of a seed and is the place of origin for a new student. The belts progress through yellow, green, blue and red. The black belt is the final adornment for the student and represents the darkness beyond the sun. For those students that achieve this rank, the search for enlightenment and knowledge is an ongoing process.

“Pretty much the best experience you can have, win or lose,” DeFranco said, “is at the tournaments. We always have a great time.”

Although the translation of Tae Kwon Do seems demanding: Tae – jumping or flying, to kick or smash with the foot, Kwon – to punch or destroy with the fist, and Do – the “art” or “way,” the practice is accessible to persons of all talents and ability levels. For those interested in learning, Grand Master Choi teaches beginner and advanced level courses at PSU.

And while the art may be employed in cases of self-defense, DeFranco is quick to mention that Tae Kwon Do is better utilized as a sport or philosophy.

“Tae Kwon Do is far more useful as a sport,” DeFranco said. “It’s very much a martial art, and embodies competition and spirit.”

The sparring matches that take place at the tournaments can be both mentally and physically grueling. Defranco describes a match as: “a chess game at 90 miles per hour.”

Physical benefits of practicing Tae Kwon Do include increased flexibility and fluidity of motion, as well as better cardiovascular health and conditioning. But for Defranco, Tae Kwon Do has done more than just help him stay in shape.

“I have more confidence and a greater sense of identity,” Defranco said. “Tae Kwon Do teaches respect, especially for those above or below you in the ranks.”

Tae Kwon Do is an art form that seeks to shape and stimulate the mental, physical and spiritual components of the individual over the course of one’s life. It is a practice that, contrary to

Hollywood’s portrayal, speaks to growth and peace for its participants.

The club, funded by the Student Fees Committee, has been active on campus for two decades.

Those wanting information can contact Defranco at 503-725-7621.