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How to Do It

Tae Kwon Do

Girl doing tae kwon do

What you'll need

Most tae kwon do students wear white pants, a white jacket, and a cloth belt. For some martial arts, the belt color shows the student's skill level and personal development — from white (beginner) to black (expert). The colors reflect nature. For example, the white belt that students start out with stands for a seed. The yellow belt that they get next stands for the sunshine that opens the seed. To advance from one grade level to another, you have to pass loads of tests — five for the green belt, nine for the brown belt, and 10 for the black belt! You can get a first-degree black belt in two to four years, but after that, there's still more to learn... There are 10 black belt levels!

For sparring (practice fighting) go for full gear, including a mouthpiece and padding on your head, hands, feet, and shins.

Play it safe

Look for an instructor who's into respect and discipline, but still has plenty of patience. The class area should have lots of space and a smooth, flat floor with padding. The fewer students the better — more attention for you!

Wear all the right gear. Warm up and stretch so you're loose and ready to go! You need good instruction before launching into any moves. And when you do learn the moves, remember your limits. For example, white belt students shouldn't spar (practice fight).

When you are ready for matches, you've gotta have an instructor around to regulate. Some martial artists use special weapons (like swords), but it's almost a sure thing that you'll get hurt with them unless you're totally advanced... so, no weapons. During your match, make sure that your partner knows when you're ready to stop. If you let your guard down, your partner may think it's a good chance to take you down!

How to play

Martial arts — a special type of defense skills — started in the Orient (East Asia). Today, they're taught all over the world for self-defense and avoiding conflict, too. Body and mind control, discipline, and confidence are key. There are a lot of martial arts styles, but since certain types rough up the joints (like knees) more than others, these are some of the best for kids your age:

Tae Kwon Do comes from Korea and means "the way of the foot and fist." It's famous for high kicks. Tae Kwon Do became Korea's national sport in 1955 and is now the world's most popular martial art.

For more information, visit: www.bam.gov/sub_physicalactivity/activitycards_martialarts.html.

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