What do you think about when you read the word “taekwondo?” Do you think of the intense sport or the fact that you have only ever heard about it in the movies? Well, after reading this you should always think about the talented and highly awarded, Kaitlynn Soo ’19.
A black belt in taekwondo, Soo began taking lessons when she was only 10 years old. Following in her brother’s footsteps, she added martial arts to her agenda while also keeping up with figure skating and ballet. While that might seem like a lot for a 10-year-old to handle, for Soo it was just another activity in her busy life.
“I guess it’s because of how competitive I am,” she says. This upcoming year will mark her seventh year practicing the over 2,000-year-old sport of taekwondo. While this might seem like another sport everybody tries when they are little, for Soo, it means so much more. So, what even is taekwondo?
Taekwondo, if you break it down, is a combination of the words “foot”, “hand”, and “art” in Korean. It combines foot and hand movements to use in self-defense. Taekwondo started in the Silla kingdom in modern-day Korea.
The small kingdom faced attacks from other kingdoms and factions, resulting in the creation of taekwondo. King Jin Heung, the king at the time, selected the sons of noble families to practice an earlier version of taekwondo, called Hwarang Do. The sons were also taught philosophy, history, and poetry. The combination of developing the mind and body became what we know today now know as taekwondo.
“It basically means you have to try and kick the other person either on their body or face,” Soo says. Do not worry, she wears protective gear and a helmet to protect herself. “Taekwondo is more of a strategic sport because you are just trying to hit hard enough to score points and not injure yourself,” she says. But strategy isn’t everything, as sometimes it is about knocking the other person out—which can definitely happen.
When you think of taekwondo or karate, you probably think of the different colored belts people wear during different stages of their training. One of the highest belts is the black belt, which Kaitlynn has earned. To achieve this belt she has to practice for one and a half hours each day.
There are many ways to achieve awards, medals, and trophies in taekwondo. These competitions last from 8 A.M. to the evening. You are weighed the night before the tournament and eat a big dinner to fuel up for the many competitions the following day.
There are two kinds of tournaments: single and team. Single tournaments consist of three two-minute rounds with minute breaks in-between. These are single elimination. and if you lose then you are out of the competition.
Team tournaments are where a group fights another group. Kaitlynn Soo has won and medaled at multiple state, national, and international tournaments over the past few years. These tournaments include the US Open, the Texas State Championships, the Trinidad and Tobago Open, the Oklahoma State Championships, Team Trials at the Olympic Training Center, and even Nationals.
Her biggest achievement so far is representing Texas at the USA National Team back in 2015. “It was really cool because I got to train at the Olympic Training Center and represent the US at the Cadet World Championships in Korea. I also got to meet people from over 60 countries, which was really amazing,” she says.
Taekwondo has helped Kaitlynn Soo in many ways: one being the many friends she has been able to meet through competing. “I love how many people I’ve met through taekwondo competitions,” she says.
Due to of the many competitions she has competed in, she has been able to meet new friends from places like Great Britain, Australia, Mongolia, France, Germany, and all over the United States. She also says taekwondo has helped her become a better athlete and her time management has improved improved in order to accommodate her busy training schedule.
Kaitlynn encourages others to try taekwondo because of how much it impacts your life. “Taekwondo is a really unique sport that more people should try,” she says. If you a feeling inspired by Soo’s many achievements, find a local taekwondo studio to see if you have what it takes to kick it with the masters.