The martial art of Taekwondo offers participants a chance to immerse themselves in physical fitness, self-discipline and the knowledge of the background of the routines, or “patterns.’’
XCP junior Rachel Purcell has dedicated herself to excellence in Taekwondo, and feels she has only scratched the surface of what that dedication can bring.
The 16-year-old Purcell recently earned a high honor, qualifying for the International Taekwondo Federation’s World Championships in May in Italy.
She has been involved in Taekwondo for half of her life, starting with an after-school program in elementary school, to taking lessons on her own after the school program had concluded.
“I really like the discipline of it. You’re always working for something,’’ she said. “It takes physical and mental discipline, and the patterns you learn, each one has a meaning behind it. You have to dedicate yourself.’’
The competition has allowed her to travel to many parts of the world, including other locations in the United States, Canada and Jamaica.
There are 24 individual patterns (equating the number of hours in a day), sparring with another individual, and pre-arranged sparring, where the participants work in concert with one another, similar to synchronized swimming.
Taekwondo was developed by South Korean General Choi Hong Hi, and means, “the way of hands and feet.’’
As an individual progresses and moves up the ladder with belts obtained, they must remember the maneuvers they used at the earlier levels because those are incorporated in the higher levels as well.
“That can be difficult sometimes, remembering those things,’’ Purcell said. “But if you don’t learn the fundamentals and the purpose of your moves, you will struggle.’’
During the competitions, the patterns and sparring are evaluated by judges. Valuable points can be knocked off by missing even the smaller elements.
Purcell competed against about 10 others in her group/age division for the World Championship qualifying, and the top three advanced.
Competitors wear headgear, use a mouthpiece, small boxing gloves, shoulder pads (optional) and foam-padded foot protection.
There are two two-minute rounds.
“It doesn’t seem like a long time, but it is,’’ Purcell said.
Purcell has been training and competing on occasion in a higher weight class in anticipation of further growth. She has a longer reach, which can be a benefit.
“Whether you are smaller or taller, everybody has their advantages and disadvantages,’’ she said.
She has worked at teaching a class once a week and assists others after school and with lessons. She hopes to open a Taekwondo school one day, “so I can help people the way people helped me.’’
Purcell is a member of the National Honor Society and enjoys her schoolwork.
“I don’t have time to watch much TV anymore,’’ she said.
She participated in track as a sprinter as a freshman, and switched to the pole vault as a sophomore. She said she likely will try the pole vault again in the spring of 2015.
She does a lot of fitness workouts on her own, trying to maintain a strong core.
“Strength and balance are very important, both with Taekwondo and in track,’’ she said.
As this Gator goes global in May in Italy, there is little doubt that she will represent XCP well.