by Damien Alarcon
photography by Erica Paal
Orly Bautista sits upright on the tip of his seat, with his hands placed on his knees. His eyes show that his attention is undivided, and a level of excitement is in him.
“Good!” Master Jin Bae yells, the moment Bautista’s son, Jamil, completes a series of maneuvers instructed to him.
Bautista’s eyes widen, and a smile forms as he watches his 5-year-old son receive his second stripe. Moments before, his other son, Patrick, 6, also received his second stripe. One more stripe for the two brothers will elevate them from white to yellow belt.
Bautista has developed a deep interest and respect for the martial art – Tae Kwon Do – in which his sons, and even himself, have participated since joining Sunrise Tae Kwon Do in January.
Since his enrollment in the studio, located at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and White Avenue in La Verne, Bautista said Tae Kwon Do has changed his body.
“I could now do things that I could have never done before,” says Bautista, who says the art does more than meets the eye. “For instance, before I could only do five push-ups, now I can do 20.”
Aside from the Bautistas, many members of the community have taken a strong dedication to it. According to Bae, instructor and owner of the La Verne studio, Tae means “kick” and Kwon means “fist” or “punch.” However, much of what has been emphasized in his studio is more than “how to” lessons on protecting oneself and inflicting pain on others, but also exercising self-discipline and dedication. “Do,” meaning “the way,” does not refer to the type of martial art, but the way of life.
Bae describes the art as a “system of physical and mental training.” It brings out a person’s potential, not only in body, but as well as mind.
Toks Oduwole, who teaches art and way of life as classes at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga and at the University of La Verne, says, “People gain self-confidence through Tae Kwon Do and take that confidence to other aspects of life,” says Oduwole. “They can carry it to the classroom and to jobs and help them deal with difficult subjects. It builds the individual spirit.”
Bae agrees. “Children tend to excel in school once they start the martial art training. One reason for this is because they gain confidence and they can be very assertive of themselves,” he says.
Tae Kwon Do is a goal-oriented activity just like any sport or career. Children, teenagers, adults and the elderly alike reap the benefits Tae Kwon Do offers. On average, adults do it to learn self-defense, and teenagers do it for the fun and to get a good workout, while children do it to imitate heroes on television. In all, they have the common goal to earn a black belt.
But training does not end there. The initial reason 9-year-old Dubreque Nash, a San Dimas resident, began studying Tae Kwon Do at age 5 was that he used to watch “Power Rangers,” a children’s television hit featuring five masked heroes who defeat enemies with their superior fighting skills. Nash is a black belt and is looked up to by his 5-year-old brother, Damon, who recently enrolled in the club.
Bae says students of the martial art and on lookers witness the benefits of Tae Kwon Do. “Parents would not spend a dime on this if it was not beneficial to their children,” he says.
“It is good for them because it burns so much of their energy, especially during the winter when they can’t go outside so much,” says Mary Compoi, Nash’s grandmother and also a San Dimas resident. “They have to listen to the master and they can’t play around. It is good discipline for them.”
“I have trouble keeping my temper in and it helps me to keep my feelings in,” says La Verne resident Nick Mallick, 13. “It helps you to build confidence and makes you feel like you can do anything. I want to do it until I get black belt, and when I get it, I’ll keep going.” Mallick has been attending the club since January.
Students must obtain 16 different belts before reaching black. It takes three or four years to obtain a black belt. Once students reach the black-belt, their training does not end. There are different degrees of black belt that each student may attain.
“Black belt, unlike popular belief, is only a beginning step into getting more depth in the art,” says Bae, 33, who adds that the learning process never ends for students at any level.
Aside from the learning of different techniques, getting stronger and becoming familiar with their capabilities, students gain a sense of self-discipline, confidence and motivation. The moment students realize what they are able to do, they are more inclined to stay in the program.
Bae, who was born and raised in Korea, has been involved in Tae Kwon Do since he was 3. He came to the United States at 16. With just over 30 years of experience, he believes that many people who claim to be instructors of the martial art do not have the proper credentials.
“It takes decades of training in order for you to be able to teach,” he says.
Tae Kwon Do is not the only martial art in which Bae has excelled; however, he has also been involved in Karate, Jiujitsu and Judo, but feels that Tae Kwon Do is the most effective for the mind and body.
Andrea Cvetezar, 18, of San Dimas, has been a member of the club since she was 14 years old. An important aspect that she has attained throughout her four years from the class is a sense of discipline.
“Master Bae teaches you how to have respect for yourself and respect for others,” she said. “This is the place to go when I am angry and I could just let it out the way I want to without hurting anybody.”
Bae has all his students say, “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” whenever it can be applied during each class. Students must also bow before entering the mat and memorize a student creed that revolves around respect. Students are expected to apply the creed to everyday life.
What is similar to all Tae Kwon Do clubs and classes is the five tenets, or motives, that students are expected to follow. The five tenets are strength, justice, perseverance, self-control and fighting or indomitable spirit.