MEMORIES of the London 2012 Olympic Games still burn bright. There were 36 sports and all of them can be enjoyed here in Oxfordshire. This week, reporter Pete Hughes gets to grips with Taekwondo
The Chinese have a saying: when two tigers fight, one dies and the other is wounded.
The point is that no one wins.
“Through training,” said Taekwondo teacher Ciaran McDonald, “you should get to a point where you are afraid to use your skills.
“When you enter the Dajang, there is an aura of respect and discipline that becomes inculcated in you.”
Taekwondo was invented by the Korean military in 1955, and became an Olympic sport in 2000, but is based on the ancient teachings of Confucius.
The core tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and the indomitable spirit.
There is even something mystical and far-eastern in the way the former university English lecturer talks about the time that he opened a new club in Abingdon this year.
He said: “September was a good time because that is when people take on new hobbies and because we were riding the cloud of interest.”
Mr McDonald, 40, said: “It is a journey you go on, it is about self-improvement and making yourself a better person.”
His club, Oxfordshire Taekwondo, has 120 members.
He said he received a lot interest following the Olympics and 10 extra people joined up.
He himself started training in 2000, because he wanted to give up smoking, and it worked.
He said: “I tried various different ways and I felt the only way to do it was by changing my life.
“Running around all these healthy people and coughing motivated me.”
Ostensibly, the aim of the sport is to kick your opponent in the head and the body; kicks equal points, and if you kick someone unconscious you win the match.
Judges used to assess whether opponents made contact, but this could be highly subjective and as the opponents became more skilled, so the match became more like a delicate game of chess, and less of a spectator sport.
The World Taekwondo Federation responded to this criticism by introducing electronic sensors in the body head and feet, which record touches.
Matches are also video recorded, and competitors can make appeals against hits.
If this happens, fighting stops whilst judges watch the tape back.
This in turn has led to strategic appeals by tired opponents to buy more time.
Mr McDonald said: “People enter into the art for all different reasons: to lose weight, to protect themselves, victims of bullying; people enter to make friends, but generally the reason you start is not the reason you stay.”
Find out more at www.oxfordshiretkd.co.uk