The Unique Relationship Between Martial Artists & Athletes


Most Tae Kwon-Do practitioners don’t consider themselves athletes. 

Even though there are many athletic aspects of what we do – strength, conditioning, flexibility, etc. – for many, the term “athlete” only refers to someone who plays a sport.

Over the years, I have had many students who started Tae Kwon-Do while they were already involved in other sports, from the professional to the youth level. Each presents varying challenges, but also unique opportunities.

High school athletes are an interesting bunch. Generally, when a kid is a star athlete in high school, they don’t want to also take Tae Kwon-Do. I believe that a main reason for this is that they’re typically used to being told how awesome they are.

So they often don’t take too kindly to Tae Kwon-Do. It requires so much more than just raw talent. It’s rare to see these athletes start in the first place, and they usually quickly drop out.

I also find that high school athletes tend to be less coachable, for the same reasons. They’re already perfect. Everyone says so. So what could Tae Kwon-Do possibly teach them?

There simply is no room for that kind of hard-headedness in martial arts. You have to be able to receive criticism. To do so means you are dedicated to becoming better. And that is a cornerstone of what Tae Kwon-Do is all about.

However, when a high school athlete does stick with Tae Kwon-Do, they reap the benefits – faster reaction time, increased agility, sharper ability to read situations – at a much younger age. If they can get past the fact that they’re not going to be showered with praise, it just sets them up that much better.

Both in sports, and in life.

Even though college athletes are not much older than their high school counterparts, there is one huge difference that I have noticed: dedication. If you make it onto a collegiate roster, you’re operating on another level. 

I am always amazed at the difference between college and high school athletes. They are often much bigger and more muscular, yet somehow also way more flexible. 

And it’s not just their physical capabilities that set them apart. As I said, star high school athletes are often uncoachable. Not so with college athletes. They are some of the most coachable people I have ever worked with.

If college athletes are dedicated, strong, flexible, and coachable, then professional athletes are super dedicated, super strong, super flexible, and super coachable. I have had the fortune of working with a number of professional athletes over the years who wanted to try Tae Kwon-Do to help them level up at their main sport. 

One in particular comes to mind. He was one of the most famous Buffalo Sabres of all time. 

I have never met someone who had already achieved so much in his sport, yet immersed himself so deeply in his Tae Kwon-Do training. He trained diligently with me for a while, and I believe that if time and circumstances would have allowed, he would still be training with me to this day.

When the time came to end his training, he expressed great gratitude for what I taught him. We joked about how even though he was so dedicated to learning Tae Kwon-Do, it didn’t amount to much in terms of his fighting ability on the ice.

Believe it or not, I used to be one of those Tae Kwon-Do practitioners who didn’t consider themselves an athlete. It wasn’t until my chiropractors and doctors began referring to me as one, and suggested that I start treating my body as an athlete would.

Only then did I start to come around.

I began to take better care of myself and followed a regimented approach to the more athletic parts of Tae Kwon-Do, as opposed to the fighting and pattern aspects. I believe it has been instrumental in allowing me to still train to this day. 

So of course Tae Kwon-Do has a great deal to offer athletes. Because even though we are technically martial artists, we are in fact athletes nonetheless.

Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, visit the Contact Us page or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!


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