FITCHBURG, Mass. — In single file, students at the U. S. Taekwondo Center & Afterschool lined up Wednesday night to take a well-timed kick at a padded target.
The martial art, as Master Jihoon Kim explained, isn’t just about physical ability.
“We teach them about Taekwondo respect,” he said. “Parents see the differences for the child. They answer ‘Yes, ma’am,’ ‘Yes, Dad’ or ‘Yes, sir.'”
The 9,300-square-foot facility at 37 Horseshoe Park Drive offers a place for adults and children age 3 and up to practice Taekwondo, an Olympic sport.
Kim said he opened the facility in September, but held the official grand opening this month. The facility runs classes on evenings and Saturdays. In the morning, the instructors at the center offer classes to local schools including McKay Arts Academy and Lunenburg Middle High School.
“Business has been very good,” Kim said.
Kim, now 28, started practicing Taekwondo when he was 3 years old and living in South Korea. He continued studying the martial art after a brief pause in high school, when he moved from South Korea to Connecticut.
Last weekend, Kim, a fourth-degree black belt, was named a Master. He said he studied under Master Myoungho Jun, who owns the studio’s sister school, U.S. Taekwondo Center, in Leominster.
“It’s a physical activity, but at the same time, it’s a mental activity,” he said.
The facility employs four people including Kim and one other instructor, Syphandon Rattanavong.
In addition to Taekwondo, the center hosts an afterschool program where students practice the martial art, play and use computers to complete their homework.
Milagros Rivera, a Johnny Appleseed Elementary student, was practicing in the studio Friday afternoon. The 8-year-old, who typically practices at the Leominster center, was honing her skills to pass the orange belt exam yesterday.
“It’s fun,” she said. “When you try to do something it gets hard, but when you start practicing it gets more easy for you.”
Nimary Rodriguez, an exercise science student at Mount Wachusett Community College, works at the facility and recently returned to studying Taekwondo.
“It’s good exercise and it’s going to help me in what I’m going to school for, too,” she said.
Information from: Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg, Mass.), http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com