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At Master Bill Heimberger's schools, students are generally split into children’s classes and adult classes. In the children’s classes, ages range from 4-12, and in the adult classes ages range from around 13 to even sixty-five and beyond. Therefore, a student meets many people from all walks of life and is able to befriend those people. In addition to the instructors, classmates are able to help one another by watching and observing each other, giving encouragement, and discussing fighting techniques.

Goal setting is a significant benefit of martial arts; goals are clearly defined as belt levels, and a true sense of accomplishment is found whenever a student “graduates” to the next belt level. Each new belt level is a goal achieved, and each succeeding belt level is another higher, harder goal to work for. Determination is instilled in a student when he or she becomes focused on achieving the next belt level. Not all students decide to focus on black belt  from the beginning; most focus on one belt at a time, and work hard for each belt as they move up. As student becomes determined to reach for his or her goals in karate, this carries over to every aspect of his or her life. A student must be intensely concentrated and focused. He or she must know all along the way to black belt what kind of a test is ahead, and must focus on preparing for such a test.

Students learn many important lessons through the practice of martial arts. They learn that violence will not solve all the problems life brings, and not to use violence to try to solve problems. A student learns about interacting with people through having classmates at belt levels both above. They learn to listen to people in authority positions, specifically Master Heimberger and the instructors, and learn how to project their own authority. A student also learns that some days go well, and some go badly. Some fights he or she will win, and some fights he or she will lose. But the lesson learned is that hard work and determination will solve most problems. A student learns that hard work doesn’t always pay off, but when it does it can be more than worth all the futile struggles. A student learns how to live his or her life to the fullest, and how to make the most of his or her surroundings and situation. Finally, a martial artist learns never to give up, and to reach for what seems to be the unreachable.

Not everyone experiences all these benefits. Having practiced Tae Kwon Do for 4½ years, I’ve seen many people come and go. Some take it seriously, and some don’t. Some work hard, and some don’t. In all the time I’ve been practicing, I’ve probably seen 15 people graduate to black belt. That may seem like a large number, but considering that about half a dozen people start out at white belt per month, it’s really not so large as it seems. Some people have to quit because of reasons beyond their control, and some merely give up. It is the hardworking few, however, who have been open to learning all along the way, and who put everything they have and more to the test and ultimately, succeed or fail. No one could ever just jump right into a black belt test and expect to pass; only someone who has watched and learned, practiced and trained, given their all and more, could be ready for such a test. It is a grueling ordeal, which pushes the student far beyond his or her physical limitations. At the end, it all comes down to whether or not a person wants what he or she is aiming for, and whether he or she has worked hard and learned enough to achieve it. The main goals, as well as benefits, of Tae Kwon Do according to the Jhoon Rhee Student Creed are, “knowledge in the mind, honesty in the heart, and strength in the body.”

by Ms. Jessica Schoepflin, Black Belt and Assistant Instructor