Sports or Tae Kwon-Do?


Tae Kwon-Do is not a sport. 

Tae Kwon-Do is a martial art. Moreover, Tae Kwon-Do is a lifestyle.

While both are athletic in nature, most sports are seasonal. Tae Kwon-Do, like any lifestyle, is constant. 

Both teach specific skills as well as broader skills. In sports, the specific skills are things like hitting, throwing, skating, etc. In Tae Kwon-Do, it’s punching, kicking, balance, etc. Both teach discipline, respect, and physicality. But their approaches to each, and how they shape you as a person, is where their differences lie. 

For instance, I don’t know if many baseball, hockey, or soccer coaches train their athletes to open doors for other people. They may have to call their coach “coach,” but does that coach also insist that the athlete say “yes Mom” or “yes Dad” to their parents, or answer their teachers “yes ma’am” or “yes sir”? I doubt it. 

Sports is first and foremost about winning. Winning the game, the championship, a trophy, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, in Tae Kwon-Do we want to win in the ring as well. But the bigger lessons of Tae Kwon-Do are all about developing a winning attitude in life. 

I will often tell my students that I don’t care if they win at a tournament. I care more if an opposing instructor or a tournament coordinator tells me what an honorable competitor you are, or what a great addition to the tournament you were. 

In Tae Kwon-Do, we’re not just teaching the discipline to focus on learning the sport and winning the game you are playing. Our discipline is all about discipline in life, which could be anything from doing well in school, to keeping your room clean, to outperforming your peers in the workplace. 

In fact, when a younger student is testing for their green belt, part of the test is that they have to tell us three chores they do around the house. And if their parents don’t nod in approval, the student doesn’t pass. Parents even have their own section of the belt test application to fill out; a checklist of tasks and behaviors at home that their child regularly does, that the parents must sign off on. We even get their school teachers involved, asking them to rate their satisfaction not with the student’s grades, but with their overall progression. We also invite them to call me directly if they would like to discuss the student further.

I have played a lot of sports in my day. Hockey, basketball, baseball, even tennis for a little while. In most sports, you are part of a team. If the team wins, you win. If the team loses, you lose.

In Tae Kwon-Do, you win or lose on your own merit. Whether it’s doing patterns, or actually fighting in a match. But, you are still a part of a team, albeit a different kind of team. Here, our entire dojang is one team, 325 members strong. And, when you are disrespectful, or doing poorly in school, you are letting the whole team down, including your “coach,” me, Master Gorino. 

Despite their differences, the combination of a consistent Tae Kwon-Do regimen with traditional sports can be extremely beneficial. I encourage my students to continue playing sports while they’re training in Tae Kwon-Do. Too often, students think they have to do one or the other. It’s simply not true. 

I know. I played competitive baseball myself back in the day. I know that with nightly practices during the week, and two games over the weekend, it can be grueling and take over your life. 

That is precisely why I recommend that students stick with Tae Kwon-Do during their sports season. The commitment that sports requires can throw your life out of balance. Tae Kwon-Do is all about keeping your life in balance through constant, consistent training. 

The maintenance of body and mind that Tae Kwon-Do provides can be beneficial in the off-season as well. One thing we always teach is that the stretching, the physicality, the muscle development, all of the wonderful things that come with Tae Kwon-Do, are perishable. Without consistent training, the body will inevitably regress. 

So when a student gives up Tae Kwon-Do completely in favor of playing sports, it makes it that much harder for them to come back. I have seen it happen too many times. A young kid gets good at baseball and is promised the world. They think they’re going to be the next Hank Aaron or Carl Yastrzemski (can you tell what generation I’m in?). So, they decide to focus all of their time and energy on baseball. 

But, inevitably, it doesn’t work out. I’m not rooting for that to happen, of course, but the numbers don’t lie. It is almost impossible to make it in professional sports. When that happens, the person finds themselves not just without their sport, but also without the benefits of their Tae Kwon-Do training. They often feel too weak or tired, both of body and of mind, to come back to the dojang, even though they are always welcome to.

It’s also worth noting that some of the most successful professional athletes train in a martial art for all the reasons you’d imagine. So if you are hoping to win the professional sports lottery, consistent, uninterrupted training in Tae Kwon-Do will only help your chances.

Here is a staggering bit of information. Out of approximately 200 black belts that have taken three or more months off from our school for one reason or another, but promised to come back, only eight ever did. Eight. And of those eight, six were women who took time away to have a child. 

I have experienced it myself. When you have been in Tae Kwon-Do as long as I have, injuries are inevitable. Injuries require healing. Healing requires time. I’ll admit, some of those times it was very hard to get myself off the couch and back on the mat. And once I did get back, those first few punches and kicks hit very differently. Things hurt when they never did before.

It is amazing what the human body can get used to. But when we take those amazing things for granted, like all things we take for granted, they leave. 

This is why Tae Kwon-Do can not be treated like another sport. It can’t be thought of as a seasonal activity that you leave and come back to. Because in order to maintain the discipline, the will, and the strength to come back to it, you have to have never left it in the first place. 


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, register online 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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