You Don’t Need to be An Athlete to Start Tae Kwon-Do

Master Gorino's Tae Kwon-Do

When she said it I thought, “I’m not an athlete. I’m a martial artist.

This talented physical therapist I used to work with was lamenting to me, “it’s different for you athletes. You seem to heal more quickly. You’re endorphin freaks, too. No matter what challenge is placed in front of you, you just push through until you’ve achieved your goal.” 

She also mentioned that what should have been a six-month recovery from surgery only took me three because I went into it in optimal physical shape. Repairs just seem to heal quicker in martial artists than the “average person” for the same reason. 

I chalk all of this up to what some refer to as the “woo-woo” portion of Tae Kwon-Do. Whatever the reasons, I’m just glad it’s the truth.

Returning to my original point of being seen as an athlete, for the longest time, I never thought of martial artists like me as athletes. But when you think about it, I suppose we really are. 

That’s not to say that you need to already be an athlete to start Tae Kwon-Do. In fact, I see Tae Kwon-Do as more of a path to becoming an athlete. 

Back in the day, we would have a lot of people who would come in as athletes and just wanted to learn how to fight. That was just the nature of things back then.

We still get some people who just want to learn to fight. Which today means that they want to learn how to defend themselves. But by and large, incoming students don’t think of themselves as athletes. 

We instruct new students that, unlike with other sports, we don’t expect anything exceptionally physical of them when they first come in. In baseball, you’re already expected to know how to throw or hit a ball. In football, you’re expected to come in with speed or strength. In other sports, those that aren’t good enough, get cut. That’s simply not the case with Tae Kwon Do. 

Here, your instructors have zero expectations for you when you’re a beginner, other than that you make the decision to take the “next step” to becoming the best version of yourself. That’s why we have a trial program. The only expectation our students have is that they will learn. Learn to kick, learn to punch, while learning self-defense, discipline, and respect

Some of the best instructors to come up in my school were some of the worst athletes I have ever seen when they started. In fact, I can name four of my best instructors who were absolutely uncoordinated klutzes when they first started here. That’s not me being disparaging, either. They will tell you the same thing. 

It wasn’t easy for them. They had a lot to overcome in order to get where they wanted to go. I’m not saying it will be easy for you. But, they were the kind of people who stuck with the program and trusted the process, and it paid dividends for them. And if you buy into the process and trust your instructors, it will do the same for you. 

I once had a student named Ray. At the time, I was a third-degree black belt, and Ray was maybe a green or yellow belt.

Anyway, I would be working the heavy bag and I would often see Ray peeking around the corner and watching me. When I would look back at him or try to approach him, he’d quickly look away.

I knew what he was doing, so one day I asked him if he wanted to come over and work on the bag together. I have always made a point to train with some of the “best” in the dojang, as well as what some would consider the worst. I train with the “worst” because they make me a better teacher. I train with the “best” because they help make me a better martial artist, and they help keep me young and moving!

Ray was, to say the least, one of the worst. He was very clumsy, and extremely shy. But, over the years, he stuck with it and became a very good black belt. 

One day I asked Ray what made him stick with Tae Kwon Do. I knew he had tried, and given up on, several other athletic pursuits. (baseball, football, basketball, etc.) He said that Tae Kwon Do, and the Tae Kwon Do community was the only thing that made him feel like he could not just do Tae Kwon Do, but actually become something in life.

And that has certainly been the case for him. Ray is currently living in Saratoga and is now a sixth degree black belt. Not to mention, he was one of the best instructors that ever came through this school. 

So, you don’t have to be an athlete when you come here. In fact, most of the athletes who do come here, don’t stick around. Particularly the good ones. They’re used to being told how great they are all the time. When they come here, where everyone is treated equally, they’re not used to it. 

And they’re certainly not used to the feeling when a 5’ 7”, 64 year-old man sends them (safely) to the mat!


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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