“Thrombocytopenia shortened my lifespan and made it difficult to walk. Yet taekwondo helped my body and mind immeasurably and even allowed me to kick.”
These are the reflections of taekwondo grade holder Sheila Radziewicz who visited the World Taekwondo Headquarters in Kukkiwon. She decided to overcome her obstacles and fight her genetic disorder, which means she has no arms or kneecaps, and learn taekwondo.
“Wow, I can’t believe I really did that,” she exclaimed. “A life’s path changed by taekwondo.”
In 2010 when she was promoted to the superior black belt level of taekwondo, American netizens wrote, “It is a real testament to Sheila that she has accomplished something both with her mind and now with her body and spirit that most people will never be able to do.” Nowadays, she is even able to swing heavy nunchaku with her small hands, which are attached at the shoulder.
|Taekwondo instructors from Europe, the U.S. and other parts of the world participate in a taekwondo leadership course at Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Headquarters in Seoul on Aug. 1, 2012. (Kukkiwon World Taekwondo Headquarters)|
Taekwondo has truly become a sport for all people, not just with its dynamic kicks and moves, but also with its healing effects, much like the case of Radziewicz, uniting communities and cultivating one’s soul.
The International Taekwondo Academy’s coach Marco Ienna assessed taekwondo as “the best behavioral and philosophical art complete with etiquette, balance, wit and dynamics.”
In Europe, the United States, Africa and the Middle East, taekwondo is a catalyst for community spirit. Pioneers of taekwondo agree that taekwondo elevates one’s body, mind, and spirit.
“Taekwondo is a life-saving martial art responsible for the security of societies,” said Lee Kwan-Young, the man responsible for establishing taekwondo in France for the past 45 years.
After being accepted as an official Olympic sport at the 103rd IOC General Session in Paris in 1994, taekwondo became a “global sport.” The medals have become evenly spread among six continents and since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, seats at every taekwondo game have been sold out.
In the 2012 London Olympics, out of eight different weight groups and a total of 32 medals, Europe earned 16, Asia-Oceania nine, North America four, South America two and Africa won one. Taekwondo has also been selected as an official sport for the first European Games in Azerbaijan in 2015.
There are even calls to increase the number of taekwondo medals at the Olympics. The fact that there are 72 medals in wrestling, 52 in boxing, 45 in shooting, 54 in cycling, 45 in weightlifting, 56 in judo and 48 in canoe is the main reason for such demand from the 90 million taekwondo-practicing athletes worldwide.
Many are pointing out the crucial need for more balance in the process of allocating medals in different sports by European and other developed countries. Without such balance, the Olympics can no longer be a global celebration.
By Cheon Soo-jin, Lee Ha-eun