Kyle Johnsontaekwondo master

Jackie Chan’s foot makes contact with his enemy’s head and shoots the foe backward like a marble. He then proceeds to run up the side of a building and, in doing so, bends the laws of physics. This, of course, is a scene from a movie and is almost impossible. However, fighting techniques like these are used and practiced by people all over the world. Kyle Johnson, a senior at Ames High, is one such person; he practices the art of taekwondo. Taekwondo, whose roots stretch back to the first century, is a philosophical discipline and combat sport that focuses on self-defense, introspection, and fighting with fists and feet. Like most sports, taekwondo has different components. “[Competitive] Taekwondo is broken up into two parts: competitive forms and sparing,” Johnson said. “In competitive forms, the focus is on hand and foot techniques and different stances. Sparring, on the other hand, is when a competitor fights another fighter in a match. It is really impractical in real life.” Taekwondo is different from judo, karate, and other disciplines. “It is more physical in comparison to others forms of martial arts,” Johnson said. “Judo, for example, is where competitors just throw each other around. Taekwondo takes more focus, skill and discipline.” Belt colors and numbers are used as a ranking system. The belts range from white to black, which is the belt with the highest rank. Once a practitioner gains a black belt, the colors change into degrees such as first, second, third etc. “In order to advance to the next belt, students go through promotion tests which test students on techniques, forms and knowledge,” Johnson said. Johnson, now a second-degree black belt, joined taekwondo at a young age. “I was 5 years old when I first joined taekwondo,” Johnson said. “At the time it seemed like an interesting sport. I am still in taekwondo today because it has improved and continues to improve my mental and physical stability, focus and stamina.” Taekwondo competitions are held in most areas through local organizations and clubs. These competitions range from promotion tests to qualifying for the Olympics. Johnson has participated and continues to participate in local tournaments. “I competed in a local competition held through Iowa State University,” Johnson said. “I placed second in form and third in sparing. Unfortunately, I was not old enough to go to nationals, but I would like to in the future.” Johnson doesn’t use his fighting skills to hurt others. He would rather be a pacifist. “I’ve gotten into a few scuffles, but I haven’t hurt anyone,” Johnson said. “I use Taekwondo primarily for self defense. For me, Taekwondo provides a philosophy that combines mind and body into one.”