High-Altitude Taekwondo

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Master Phurba Dorji briefs us on the spread of taekwondo in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

I started taekwondo in 1985 under the guidance of Master Y. Tharchen, founder of taekwondo in Bhutan and the present secretary general of the Bhutan Taekwondo Federation. After I gained my first dan, I was sent to Chhukha in southern Bhutan, by the Bhutan Taekwondo Federation, to open a new dojang. At that time, there were no taekwondo practitioners there; the sport was very new to the public. I introduced taekwondo to students and to the gener- al public, and conducted demonstrations during Bhutan’s National Day on Dec 17. Within a few years, the numbers of taekwondo practitioners in my dojang increased tremendously and I started con- ducting inter-school taekwondo competitions among five schools in the southern province.
Today, under my supervision, I have more than 850 young learners of taekwondo from different schools. Some of the members have graduated with dan and poom certificates awarded by the Kukki- won.
Taekwondo has spread among schools, universities and colleges in the southern province The annual Inter-School Taekwondo Competition, National Level Championships and Inter Dzongkhag (District) Level Championships are also held once every year. Some of the championships are sponsored and supported by the BTF and some championships are organized through sponsorships and donations. During the championships, the players with the most potential are recognized and called for national team selection, which is held in Thimphu every year.
Taekwondo is a well-rounded exercise program that encompasses muscle toning, stretching and flexibility. It increases strength and stamina through aerobic sparring, and presents a mental challenge through becoming proficient at patterns or forms.
Most classes start with warm-ups. These exercises are calisthenics such as push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, trunk rotations, squat kicks and various leg stretches. For certain, you will tighten your abs and strengthen your arms just from performing the warm-up exercises. Before you know it, you’ll be doing 50 knuckle or triangle push-ups at rapid-fire pace and will be able to lean up against a wall and have someone lift your leg up so that your toes touch the wall behind your ear. Taekwondo definitely helps people become healthy and fit.
Taekwondo is also an Olympic sport. Many people enjoy taekwon- do, because it is an all-inclusive exercise program. It’s fun, it’s chal- lenging, and it’s an excellent way of life to get into, or to stay in shape. Everyone starts out as a white belt. Have fun and get moving!