Taekwondo students learn more than martial arts
By Raphael Sugarman
Taekwondo is loosely translated as the “way of the hand and the foot.”
For Justin Ramirez and its many other students, however, the Korean martial arts form has at least as much to do with emboldening human hearts as training extremities.
“I didn’t have the courage to defend myself,” said the 12-year-old Kingsbridge resident, recalling a time, less than a year-and-half ago, when he was bullied in school.
Justin now walks the streets of his school and neighborhood with confidence. Both he and his mother, Iris Martinez, trace this newfound confidence to the decision to enroll him in Warriors Taekwondo, a school that teaches the martial art to both children and adults.
“I notice a big, big difference in him,” said Martinez, adding that her son is not only more adept at defending himself, but can better channel his considerable energy in more productive directions.
Master Raj Rajput founded Warriors Taekwondo in 1998. The group operated out of the Century building on Johnson Avenue for a short time, before moving to Astral Fitness in Kingsbridge where its ranks have grown steadily for the past 11 years.
Rajput augmented his Astral site with a permanent home for the school in October 2012 in the environs of Inwood. The two schools have a combined total of more than 200 students divided by age groups — the youngest is 3-years-old and the oldest is in her 60s — and skill levels, according to Rajput.
“Everybody can see that it is rough, but it is also one of the prettiest sports I have ever seen,” said Rajput, 44. “The moves are so fast. They are like a beautiful dance.”
Similar to other martial arts, taekwondo awards belts recognize a students’ degrees of skill beginning at a white belt and ascending to multiple degrees of black belts.
Judo and taekwondo are the only martial arts that are Olympic sports.
Taekwondo emphasizes kicking far more than other martial arts. Punches are allowed only to the upper torso, while kicks are allowed to both the upper body and face. Kicks below the belt are not allowed. Sweeping kicks are also against the rules, along with grabbing your opponent.
KeywordsWarriors Taekwondo, Justin Ramirez, Korean martial arts, Master Raj Rajput, Jaiden Feliz, Abraham Altamirano, Alex Bermudez, Derick Alberto,