With over 300 societies at KCL, it’s very easy to be really overwhelmed about what to join and where to start – so, here at Her Campus KCL we’re here to help! In this new series of article pieces, we wish to learn more about different societies open to all King’s students.
Here’s an introduction to KCL Taekwondo! Check out my interview with Annie Ku – KCL Law undergraduate and this year’s Taekwondo President below!
What should people know about Taekwondo?
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that focuses on kicks - so flexibility and fitness is crucial to the sport. It’s divided into sparring (fighting) and patterns, and athletes can choose to just focus on one or do both. KCLTKD is particularly strong in sparring, and most of our competitors achieve success in this area!
It is also an Olympic sport, as of the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. Taekwondo is split into the ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) and WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) styles. Whilst both styles originate from Korean martial arts; modern taekwondo ITF is practiced in North Korea, while WTF is South Korean. WTF is sport taekwondo and the style used in the Olympics.
What would you say to someone who is interested in taekwondo who hasn’t had any experience before?
Come and try it! From my experiences at fresher fairs, common concerns from novices are that:
1) People don’t think they’re good enough
2) Girls worry that their legs will get too big
3) It’s so different to any sport they’ve done before
My response to those concerns are as follows:
1) Everyone starts somewhere: I started the sport when I first joined university, and I felt supported the whole time while I learnt everything from scratch. There’s no need to feel embarrassed about lack of experience, because skills and experiences are something to be gained. Progress is far most admirable than inherent talent.
2) Legs cannot be “too big”. You will gain muscle and fitness, but unless you consume a lot of protein and lift a lot of weights to bulk, you won’t really notice much difference from the sport alone. A more likely physical effect is weight loss due to the intense activity, and improvement in stamina because of the cardio.
3) It is different, but that’s why it’s fun. After a few sessions people get used to the sport, and you don’t need prior sporting ability to get into it. It helps to be flexible, but that’s something that can be acquired through regular training. It’s not a mindless sport either: particularly with sparring, you’re always thinking about what the best tactic is to use against your opponent to win the fight. So, taekwondo works the brain and the body.
As a club we are small in number, but the sense of community is very strong. Some of my closest friends are the ones I met from taekwondo.
The executive committee for KCLTKD is all female this year. Do you think there is a significance in you being involved in an all-woman led team?
Taekwondo at King’s is an all-inclusive club, so we have mixed gendered athletes. But for the first time this year we have an all-female committee, so it’s pretty fun and we’re all like-minded. There are benefits to a mixed committee too, but with all females it feels like there’s a stronger sense of loyalty to each other as we’re all part of the first all-female committee legacy together.
What’s it like being a woman in a position of power in a male dominated sport?
As an individual sport, each athlete has the chance to build on their own skills and achieve success in their own way. I wouldn’t compare taekwondo to something like football, where it is clear that the men teams are still far more popular than women teams. Instead, particularly in British taekwondo, the true stars of the field are Bianca Walkden, Jade Jones and Lauren Williams - each with numerous wins to their name and strong reputations as being undefeatable champions. The British male taekwondo athletes are nothing to sniff at either, but currently it’s the ladies who hold the spotlight!
Despite this, the majority of instructors and heads of clubs are male. As a university club it’s the president who makes the final decisions, so having the responsibility of the entire club for a year is difficult, but a great opportunity to grow the club in a way I think is appropriate. Last year we had mostly female members in the club, but this year the balance seems to have evened out. My voice as a female president is heard, and (as far as I’m aware) respected.
Honestly, I’ve never really thought about what it’s like being a woman in a position of power in taekwondo, because so far my experiences have been positive in this sport. Men and women encourage each other to be the best they can, and there are no gender excuses for not being able to do anything or expectation that one person will do better than another just because of their sex.
Have you got any advice for someone who might want to run for committee positions in the future?
Get involved in the club and the sport. It’s a democratic vote by club members to get a committee position, so if you’re not known or respected by your peers and others then there’s no real chance. As part of the committee you will also represent the club to other universities and other societies within the club, so you should make effort to get to know the taekwondo community (which is rather small, everyone knows each other) and other sports clubs. Compete, get involved, and be friendly!
And finally, please share your wisdom - how do you balance society and uni work?
This is the hardest part. There’s a lot of admin and a lot of problems that arise from running a club, and even more issues when you try and bring change to the club. I’m also in my final year of the LLB and currently trying to find a job for when I graduate. I’m extremely thankful to my committee, who have been responsive, imaginative, and on top of things. Without them all I think I would be dead from stress. The club is quite small and supportive, which means that the members are understanding of issues that do arise, thankfully.
I try and make sure that my degree comes first in the order of priorities, but often it is eclipsed by an imminent taekwondo problem. I also have my personal life to balance against this as well, and it’s especially hard on days where I’m dealing with something personally but still need to maintain composure at the club and attend class. I’m a strong believer in not letting my emotions control my behaviour, but sometimes it cannot be helped. Being surrounded by friends at the club always boosts my mood, and I know I can count on them.
Overall, it’s enjoyable and meaningful to be president of KCL taekwondo. From this position I can learn a lot of things and contribute towards the club that made university life so much better for me.
Thank you to Annie for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions! Everyone at Her Campus KCL is rooting for all the successes the KCLTKD team will undoubtedly achieve under your leadership – best of luck to you all!