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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Getting a kick out of it

UC Davis’ taekwondo club finally returns to some normalcy and emphasizes the importance of being a team despite competing individually

By KATHERIN RAYGOZA — sports@theaggie.org

 

Taekwondo has become a popular sport by gaining an international reputation, and it is one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts. Today, it is practiced by about 80 million people in 209 countries around the world.

The sport is not just about fighting; it teaches values of inclusiveness, respect and leadership. The best part is that anyone can join regardless of their age, gender, religion and  ethnicity. At UC Davis, the taekwondo club’s goal is to make sure it is an inclusive and accessible sport for all.

“It’s a super supportive team,” said Juliet Bost, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology major and the club’s vice president. “I think it’s a great place to be because we’ve got people who have done taekwondo for a really long time and we also have complete beginners. Everyone is making sure we each are learning. Often in taekwondo, you don’t experience a lot of team pride since it’s an individual sport but at UC Davis, we have a team dynamic. We’re all about making the team the best that it can be.”

In terms of experience, the club has people from every level. People who have never thrown a kick in their lives attended their first taekwondo practice on campus, and the team also has people who have been competing for more than 15 years.

The club team also has a unique process of accepting new members: They don’t require a tryout. The only thing necessary to participate with the team is to bring a positive attitude.

“It’s really fun to have people who have never competed before,” said Raye Chiang, an applied mathematics major at and one of the club’s co-presidents. “Since a lot of it is about having fun rather than being super competitive, it just helps the environment so that no one will have an elitist attitude. It’s important we build relationships, create a community and make sure everyone is included. We’re a pretty big family and I don’t think that being co-president means we’re different from the other members.”

This year, the team exceeded a shocking amount of people wanting to participate in the club. Usually there are about 40 to 50 members — but in the beginning of fall quarter, about 70 members attended their practices.

“Part of the reason why we think so many people want to join this year is because people are really excited to be back on campus and in person,” said Madison Lee Hall, a fourth-year political science major and the club treasurer. “They miss that connection.”

There has been a huge shift to the team because of the ongoing pandemic. The team has not been able to practice, have socials or participate in any competition. Their competition and team bonding experiences have not been the same since they have been canceled for over a year and new members are arriving.

“Last spring, we did a bit of [in-person] training but still couldn’t make contact with each other,” said Bost. “So coming back, everyone is a little rusty. It’s taking some time to get back into it, but we can at least practice again.”

Team bonding is a crucial part of the club and because of COVID-19, team members were not able to meet each other in person. They stayed connected as much as possible all throughout the past year, in whatever way they could.

“All throughout the pandemic, we had online practices through Zoom. Even though, understandably, not many people attended, it helped us stay connected,” said Annie Kaur, a fourth-year biological psychology student and the club’s co-president. “We also stayed connected through social media, and we made sure not to let anything die down.”

For the past year, there haven’t been any local tournaments in the Davis area, and it has been a long year since the club has competed. After waiting a year, UC Davis’ annual taekwondo tournament will finally be held on Nov. 20 at the University Credit Union Center. This is one of their special tournaments because this is an event where the entire community gathers.

They must follow COVID-19 protocols at the tournament. In order for people and competitors to enter the facility, they must present “a symptom survey, a negative COVID test or be vaccinated and wear a mask,” according to Kaur.

Competitors are also required to wear masks during the competition even though they already have a mouth guard on. This will be a challenge, but the team isn’t complaining and is just happy to be competing again after the long break.

With new members arriving and the competition season finally beginning, the club is hoping to stay connected and have fun together again.

“Our coach likes to say that even though taekwondo is an individual sport, we practice as a team and we are a team,” Lee Hall said.

 

Written by: Katherin Raygoza — sports@theaggie.org

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