His go-to move: a 360 turn with a roundhouse kick– a “tornado kick,” as they called it in the studio he attends.
As an undisciplined child at the age of 10, sophomore Tom Phu’s parents signed him up for taekwondo lessons. Ever since then, he has been practicing and mastering his skills as a first degree black belt, training for at least four years straight.
“My parents recommended me taekwondo because I was a pretty bad student back then,” Phu said. “I was super hyper, and [taekwondo] taught me self-control [and to] keep my cool when I get into tough situations.”
Alongside practicing his skills in taekwondo, he has also actively competed in many tournaments.
“There was one tournament that meant a lot to me when I was a red stripe,” Phu said. “After the sparring match, I was crying because I felt like I could’ve put in more practice and pushed myself to the limits. After that tournament, I started working very hard for my back belt. I learned [to always give my] 100% effort.”
Taekwondo has played a large factor in Phu’s maturity and the development of a hard working mindset. Additionally, it has even taught him the importance of fitness and martial arts, encouraging him to implement healthier, active choices in his life.
“Before, I didn’t view fitness as a [priority],” Phu said. “But afterwards, I realized [that] without a good body, you can’t do anything. “If you’re unhealthy, you won’t have a good life. Thanks to taekwondo, I started working out daily.”
Throughout his years of training, he encountered a main problem of his: flexibility, an important aspect in taekwondo as it requires frequent kicking. However, Phu worked his way around it through persistent practice.
“I would stretch everyday, and my master would push me down into the splits.” Phu said. “I could kick high, but it wasn’t high enough. I forced myself to kick higher. During sparring matches, head kicks are worth more than body kicks, and the only way to make my kicks to the head was being flexible.”
Through learning taekwondo and participating in tournaments, Phu was taught an important lesson that he sticks by.
“Those that don’t give up are the best,” Phu said. “Taekwondo taught me to never give up. There is always hope in tough situations and giving up isn’t an option. Before, I would always give up when it was getting difficult.”
As of now, he has taken a break from taekwondo due to school, but plans on returning during his senior year. Signing up for lifetime taekwondo lessons allows him to come back to the studio and continue his journey in taekwondo. To those who aspire to pursue martial arts or are interested, he advises them to be mentally prepared.
“Ask yourself first if you really are interested in martial arts,” Phu said. “You can learn a lot out of [taekwondo]. [It] isn’t only about self-defense. [It is] mainly about your mental state and how long you can last.”