Reporter Maria Almenoar tries this Korean martial art. Find out which broke first: the board or her foot.

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Maria Almenoar tries this Korean martial art. Find out which broke first: the board or her foot.

This Korean art is more than just about strength and aggression as Maria Almenoar finds out after six jumping kicks, a throbbing toe and an aching groin.

As far as my colleagues were concerned, I started taekwondo classes because I thought self-defence might be useful in emergencies. In fact, I just wanted to be like Jennifer Garner, the butt-kicking spy from the television series Alias.

Six jumping kicks, a throbbing toe and an aching groin later, I didn’t feel as glamorous as I hoped I would.

“Concentrate on the centre of the board,”said my instructor and head coach at Taekwon Singapore, Mr Lim Keng Leong, 29.

He had managed to remain patient despite the fact that I had repeatedly kicked his fingers instead of the 2cm-thick wooden board he was holding, absolutely still, at eye level.

“I’m going to break this board even if it means breaking my foot,” I mumbled to myself, eyeing the two youngsters who were watching me from the corner of the floor mats.

I furrowed my brow in concentration, lifted both hands in a boxing-like stance and ran towards the board.

“Lift off with the left leg and kick up with the right,” I said to myself over and over again.

The board split cleanly into two.

The upper sole of my right foot stung slightly, as did my groin, but the pain faded in minutes.

Despite the fact that training requires you to break an awful lot of wooden boards with your fists, elbows and feet, taekwondo isn’t purely about strength or aggression.

Technique, coordination and concentration are key in this ancient Korean fighting art, which received its official name taekwondo (tae meaning kick with feet, kwon meaning destroying with hands and do meaning the art) in 1955.

Which would explain why youngster below the age of 12 make up the majority of newcomers and why more females than males here are trying the sport out.

In my first few lessons at the school in King George’s Avenue near Jalan Besar Stadium, I was convinced that one punch or one kick was pretty much like the other.

Reporter Maria Almenoar gets to learns the nine basic kicks in taekwondo, which all have to be done at different heights.

I took all of half hour to “master” all nine basic kicks, like the turning, slamming and hook kicks, each of which had to be executed at different heights and include a 180- or 360-degree turn.

And then I moved on to the blocks consisting of the inward, lower section and high blocks among others.

Seems easy enough, I thought to myself.

So I strapped on my headgear, body guards and gloves, eager for a sparring session with my instructor to show off my new moves.

For five minutes, I looked as glamorous as a headless chicken and managed to skim his white robe, or gi, with my unclassifiable kicks, twice

No more embarrassing antics, it’s time to pay attention and concentrate, I told myself when Mr Lim took me through the first level of poomsae.

Poomsae is a routine of taekwondo moves used when students get tested at each level of the 12 coloured belts from white to black.

It involved a series of punches, blocks and kicks repeated after every 90-degree swivel of the body, making a total of 28 movements at the white belt level.

Even at full concentration I couldn’t help sheepishly over and over again:”Is it the right hand or left hand that goes up? What should I do with my feet?”

Taekwondo, it seems, makes your head hurt more than your feet. But really, recalling a throbbing toe, I didn’t mind at all.


Besides training for the different belts, you can learn performance taekwondo which is taekwondo accompanied by music, self defence and taekwondo aerobics for fittness purposes.


Anyone really, if you are mobile and patient.