View Full Version : Koreans put kick into morning PT

08-26-03, 05:31 AM
Koreans put kick into morning PT

Story and photo by Sgt. Greg Heath, 4th Public Affairs Detachment

BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Some mornings, service members can be seen kicking and punching and heard yelling at the Bagram Civic Center. Don’t get this confused with Billy Blank’s Tai-Bo; it’s far from that – it’s Tae Kwon Do.

A group of Korean Marines from the 924th Republic of Korea Medical Group give coalition service members an alternative to normal physical training by offering them lessons in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do.

“Tae Kwon Do can help you develop physically, gain confidence and relieve combat stress,” Tae Kwan Do head instructor 1st Lt. Jae-Neung Lee said, about the benefits for service members while deployed.

At the lessons they teach the new students various combinations of punches and kicks and also sets of controlled stances, called poomsae. Along with teaching Tae Kwon Do fundamentals, the instructors also mix in sprints, cardio exercises and one-on-one training to give the service members a rigorous workout.

Most of the Korean Marines started Tae Kwon Do training at a very young age and continue with it while in the military. They bring those years of training to the coalition soldiers, most of whom are beginners, just getting their first taste of the martial art. Spc. Elton Thomas, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Mountain Division, joined up as soon as he arrived in Afghanistan more than four months ago.

“It teaches you to be patient with yourself,” he said, regarding the large number of movements you have to memorize, but his favorite aspect of Tae Kwon Do is kicking and it’s bi-product, stress relief.

“You can take frustrations out from the past day on the kicking pad,” he said, referring to the portion of the training where students perform different combinations of kicks on striking pads held by instructors.

For newcomers and old hands alike, the hour-long lessons can be grueling.

“I have to change shirts during every lesson,” said Spc. Rowland Valderrama, 3654th Maintenance Co., due to the massive amount of sweating caused by the workout.

And he’s not the only one, but he says he doesn’t mind it because the Korean instructors try to get the most out of their students.

“The Marine Tae Kwon Do instructors are motivated, so it gets you motivated,” He said.

For Sgt. Christopher Huff, 3654th Maint. Co., the best part of going to Tae Kwon Do is the camaraderie shared by the instructors and students.

“I like being with a group of people who share a common interest in Tae Kwon Do,” he said. “The people around you is what makes it for me.”

Although there is a language barrier, it hasn’t stopped the soldiers and instructors from becoming friends during the deployment.

“The friendship you gain is so absolutely incredible, it’s my favorite part,” said Spc. Jennifer Madden, 213th Area Support Group, who was awarded a free Tae Kwon Do uniform for repeatedly coming out to the classes and showing a desire to improve.

For the instructors, all the satisfaction for teaching the class comes with meeting all of the students who come out to learn.

“We do it because we like meeting people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and we get to make new friends and develop good relationships with the Tae kwon Do students,” Lee said. “After work we get together and exchange culture and learn many things from each other.”

During their deployment Lee and the other instructors made many friends, but they’re rotating back to Korea on Saturday. A new group will resume the Tae Kwon Do classes in early September.

Lee has one wish for the students he’s leaving behind.

“One day I hope that some of the soldiers can work hard enough with the next group to eventually achieve the level of black belt, that’s my hope.”

Tae Kwon Do classes are held in the Bagram Civic Center next to the gym on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6 a.m. The classes will resume in early September and are open to anyone.