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Taekwondo elite athletes: “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Strong” (Part 2)

Taekwondo elite athletes: “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Strong” (Part 2)

Taekwondo’s Elite Talk Training in the Time of Covid-19

Note to readers: This is the second part of a two-part series. Part 1 can be read here.

Active lockdown

All athletes advised that everyone trapped in lockdown should be doing a daily regimen of physical exercise – push ups, planks, squats, and similar calisthenics – as well as stretching and/or yoga. Taekwondo fighting moves – kicks and stepping drills – can also be practiced solo.

In these potentially depressing times, the benefits of taekwondo and its collateral exercises go beyond simple physical maintenance.

“When we are facing the epidemic, life seems to be very fragile but we should be positive: Only in this way can the body have a better immunity to fight against all this,” said Chinese double Olympic gold medalist Jingyu ‘Superkicker” Wu. “Exercise is the best way to beat depression.”

And with the duration of lockdown uncertain, exercise requires the discipline of consistency.

“Maybe you find it interesting at the beginning, but gradually you may get tired and bored,” Wu continued. “But I personally think we should try to maintain basic physical ability and a good mood through home training.”

Still, life cannot be restricted to taekwondo.

“We can develop different talents away from the athletic perspective to avoid depression and to make those long hours at home useful,” advised Egypt’s Rio 2016 bronze medalist Hedaya Malak. “For example, learning new things such as language, art, drawing, reading – and last but not least cooking. In addition, enjoying this time we have with our loved ones.”

Wu agreed. “Of course with love – we can use this time to focus on our family and friends,” she said. “We will feel more powerful to get through this with loved ones.”

Facing Fear

Maintaining physical conditioning and keeping a positive mindset are important. But with fear stalking the globe in tandem with the novel coronavirus, everyone also needs to build up a reservoir of courage.

With taekwondo being a combat sport, all WT athletes are familiar with that essential, but all-too-rare, human attribute.

“Courage means being fearless,” said Team Korea’s multiple Grand Prix gold medalist Dae-hoon Lee. “And I think it grows bigger when we work together.”

“To me, courage is the ability to find that something extra in one self to act on a situation regardless of the consequences in order to win, fight, survive or defend,” said Malak. “In our current situation, the medical professionals around the world are all showing courage. I believe courage is part of the human spirit: You develop it by building up confidence in yourself and by being knowledgeable and unafraid.”

That message synchs with Russian World Champion Maksim Khramtcov’s beliefs. “It seems to me that courage is one side of self-confidence,” he said. “In children’s sports, it starts with bravery – to not be afraid – and over time, such children go into adult sport and take responsibility for the coach, for the team, for the fans. More responsibility – more courage!”

“Courage is the ability to carry on even though we are afraid,” said Wu. “I  try to learn from heroes, to establish a correct outlook and values, and dare to take on responsibilities in my life and career. These positive energies gradually accumulate and become courage.”

“Courage is a built-in characteristic that grows with a fighter: If you want to remove your fear, you have to face it first,” said Rio 2016 gold medalist Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan. “There is no reason to fear! Your role is obvious: you have to stay at your home, keep your distance and clean yourself always.”

And if the worst happens, if you are a taekwondo practitioner, you have built-in defenses. “

“In case you are infected by the virus remember – we are athletes!” Abughaush advised. “We have good lungs and good immune systems.”

And eventually, light will appear at the end of the tunnel.

“As a taekwondo fighter, my message to people around the world is that we as human beings will come out of this situation stronger and closer together,” said Malak. “Although we are distancing ourselves from each other now it is for our safety and everyone else’s safety so that in the future we can all be together, enjoying life.”

In the meantime, every taekwondo practitioner has a wider family beyond his/her immediate walls.

“I hope all the World Taekwondo family stays safe and in a good health, and I hope to see all of them soon in the upcoming competitions,” Abughaush said. “A big hug from a distance!”

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