When she’s not studying for the rigors of the pre-med track, 3rd year Biology student Anna Shin may be found practicing a form of Korean martial arts known as “Tang Soo Do.” As the current president of the UChicago Tang Soo Do Club, Anna describes Tang Soo Do as a “sport to help you train both your mind and your body. We value conditioning your body while also keeping your mind at peace.” This physical-mental combination leads to a “great way to let out your stress during the school year.” Given this, Tang Soo Do may be just the thing for UChicago students going forward from midterms.
The UChicago Tang Soo Do club was originally founded by Master Amit, an instructor at Master Fitzgerald’s Martial Arts, a Tang Soo Do school in Hyde Park. He and a few of his fellow instructors started the club at UChicago. Even though Anna had practiced three years of Tae Kwon Do before college, she had never done Tang Soo Do prior to UChicago.
So what is Tang Soo Do exactly, and how is it different from the plethora of other martial arts RSOs on campus? According to Anna, “Tang Soo Do stands for ‘to defend (first) and to strike (second) with the empty hand.’ As the name suggests, we place our emphasis on defense before attack unlike some other martial arts.” What’s interesting is that Tang Soo Do advocates an attack in which “you should be able to end the fight with one strong defensive move that can act simultaneously as an offensive move.” In practice, “if the opponent is fast at attacking you but you can put enough power into your defense to knock down the opponent, then you can end the fight faster. Therefore, we place our utmost emphasis on power before speed and practice the belief that every defensive move can become your greatest offensive moves.”
How do these techniques translate to self-defense in unsafe situations? With the disclaimer that these tips are not meant to work in every situation and that caution and good judgment is key, Anna advises, “the safest bet is to be aware of your surroundings and to run instead of trying to fight. However, in the unfortunate circumstance that you do somehow get caught, use momentum to your advantage. Never try to pull away from the attacker. Instead, if he wants to pull you closer to him, then move into him as fast as you can as he tugs on you. That will slightly throw off the attacker’s balance and bring you close enough to him so that he can’t do much damage to you at this point without changing his position. Then, you can hit him where it hurts—fist to the groin, headbutt to the nose, etc. When his grip loosens up from the shock or the pain, that’s when you run away as fast as possible!”
Tang Soo Do has directly impacted Anna’s life outside of practice. When she fell off a high ledge in a park, her body “internalized…how to fall correctly onto [her] side/back/stomach through the ground fighting classes of Tang Soo Do.” She fell correctly according to TSD techniques, and recovered from the fall unharmed. Her favorite move is the back kick. Anna describes this kick as “the strongest kick that a human body can produce if done right, and while it’s a very simple move, it can look very fancy to the onlookers.”
UChicago Tang Soo Do maintains an active on-campus presence. Tang Soo Do regularly participates in the Kuvia tradition, hosting a workshop on “realistic self-defense moves…[including] a bunch of basic hand and foot techniques.” The officers on the board of UChicago Tang Soo Do and its instructors also create a robust advertising campaign and clean website that regularly attracts new members. Students can also see UChicago TSD at RSO fairs throughout the school year, and outside Cobb when they do their $1 hot cocoa fundraiser winter quarter.
For those interested in being a part of UChicago Tang Soo Do, here are a few things to note: no prior experience in martial arts is necessary for membership. There is a one-time membership application fee of $30 because UChicago Tang Soo Do is part of the International Tang Soo Do Federation (ITF). This fee gives you membership in ITF that is recognized on 6 out of 7 continents (they’re working on getting Antarctica to start an ITF chapter). The fee also includes a pair of dobok (traditional uniform). After the first quarter of joining, there is a $15 per quarter additional fee. Weekly practices are held Mondays from 7pm to 8:30pm, Wednesdays from 6:30pm to 8pm, and Sundays from 3pm to 5pm. Students who are hesitant to committing can try out classes for a few weeks. Interested students may contact Anna at [email protected], and browse the UChicago TSD website at http://uctsd.uchicago.edu for more information.