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3 Hacks Every New Taekwondo Student Should Know

Tucson Taekwondo Wellness White Belt Board Breaking

Are you (or your child) new to Taekwondo in Tucson or elsewhere and want to be the best? Then Keep reading because I’m going to share 3 hacks that will help new students 1) kick higher and stronger, 2) block & punch with power and 3) learn your poomsae faster.

So here are the 3 Taekwondo hacks:

  1. One of the biggest mistakes that new students make is not pivoting their feet. It’s important to pivot the foot that is on the floor so that the heel is facing the direction one is kicking. This opens up the hips and allows for greater range of motion… meaning higher kicks! So try this routine and practice 3 sets of 10-25 round kicks and 10-25 side kicks against the wall making sure your heel is facing the direction your kicking. Your kicks will be higher and stronger in no time!
  2. The second hack will help new students block and punch with more power. However, first new students have to slow down, way down! New students tend to be excited about learning martial arts and want to jump right in and do every movement fast and strong, which is wonderful… however, this may lead to poor technique in the long run, which will reduce both your blocking and punching power. Try this instead: Practice all blocks and punches in slow motion 5-10 times making sure that your rotate wrist at end of every block or punch and the blocks and punches are ending in the correct endpoint (e.g., soloplex, shoulder level, etc). Once you’ve done these drills enough, muscle memory will take over when executing techniques at full speed/strength and your blocks and punches will be much stronger.
  3. The third hack will help the new students to learn their poomsae. It’s no surprise that new students struggle to learn poomsae, as most poomsae are 20 or more steps with defensive and offensive hand and foot techniques. The cool thing is that we can use brain science to help us better memorize our poomsae. Research on cognition and memory has shown that chunking material into smaller bits of information greatly increases our ability to memorize large amounts of data. So try this poomsae training tip: If your poomsae is 20 steps long, then break it into 4-step chunks and practice each 4-step chunk starting with the first 4 steps of the poomsae until you have memorized and mastered the technique. Try doing 5-10 repetitions of each chunk. Chunking can also help advanced students perfect their poomsae by drilling the chunk they want to improve. This type of practice is called deliberate practice.

What tips do you have for new Taekwondo students?

Let us know in the comment section below.

TKD Wellness teaches olympic sport Taekwondo in NW Tucson, AZ and is a member club of USATaekwondo. Our goal is to have fun while getting fit and empowering our students through Taekwondo.

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Written by Dr. Yoendry Torres, Psychologist & 4th Dan Taekwondo

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Brain Benefits of Exercise: 4 Reasons to Start and Continue Taekwondo

Taekwondo is probably one of the funnest ways to get our dose of weekly exercise, in my opinion. Not only are Taekwondo classes a great workout but they are fun! Taekwondo classes are also energetic because we’re training with friends and because the the drills rotate and change from class to class, keeping it fresh. Most importantly, we will continue to exercise via Taekwondo because its fun and whether we realize it or not, we’re cultivating our minds, bodies and spirt.

Speaking of minds… also known as our brains. Did you know that there are an ever-growing body of research that shows the many ways regular exercise benefits our brains. For example, Wendy Suzuki, neuro-scientist, recently gave a wonderful review of these brain benefits of exercise in her TED talk. Check it out below:

Summary of the brain benefits of exercise:

  1. Boost in mood: Immediate effect on our moods due to increased neurotransmitters after workouts that last at least 2 hours. Other research suggests there is an “exercise dose” for anxiety (high frequency 5-6 days a week short duration 20-30 mins workouts) and for depression (low frequency 3-4 days a week with longer duration 45-60 minutes workouts).
  2. Improved focus: Exercise actually improves attention. For example, a study from 2013 in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that exercise has “positive implications” on how children with ADHD perform at school.
  3. Long term memory: The hippocampus is involved in long-term memory and is positively impacted by regular exercise in that it produces new brain cells, increasing its volume and enhancing our memory.
  4. Protects against brain diseases: Neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can be warded off by exercise. This is thought to be because exercise helps improve one’s cardiovascular functioning in our brains as well as the rest of our body.

Remember that there are other great reasons to train in Taekwondo such as to get physically fit, make friends, or learn self defense. Whichever the reason, I want to encourage everyone to go out and exercise for a healthier you.

Question: What is your top TKD training benefit?

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Written by Dr. Yoendry Torres, Psychologist & 4th Dan Taekwondo

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Deliberate Practice: 2018 TKD Training Goals

I know that I may be a bit late to the 2018 goal setting… but better late than never, right!

In all seriousness, after competing in the 2018 Arizona State Taekwondo Championships at the end of March and re-experiencing the thrill of competition, I decided that tweak my training routine in an effort to model deliberate practice for my students… and well to simply get better at poomsae. If you’re wondering what deliberate practice is, let me offer a brief review.

Deliberate practice is basically a type of purposeful and systematic practice/training. It is not mindless repetitions or practice but focused training with the goal to improve a particular skill. Another related psychology term is “Growth Mindset,” which is the theory developed by Carol Dweck that defines two types of mindsets:

  1. Fixed Mindset: Is a belief that you are either born with talent or your not. Born with intelligence or not. People with fixed mindsets often see failure as a blow to their ego and as a result avoid trying new things in order to maintain the belief that they are “good.”
  2. Growth Mindset: On the other hand, growth mindset is a belief that one can work, train hard to achieve mastery or even get smarter! Mistakes, failures, etc are often experienced as opportunities to grow and improve. Thus, new experiences are sought after because that is the path to excellence.

Ok, so enough about psychology… and back to TKD training. My 2018 TKD goals are simple and straight forward. Let me start out by saying that my overarching goal is to compete at Nationals in 2019 in men’s 31-40 Poomsae Division. To be clear, my goal is to simply qualify for nationals, not to win gold at national. Baby steps right?!

So here are my 2018 TKD training goals that I settled on after reviewing my video from my 2018 AZ State Championships:

  1. Improve Flexibility: Although I consider myself already pretty flexible, I think my poomsae performance can be more spectacular with higher kicks, specifically side kicks, which tend to be more difficult for me. I am focusing strength training on my legs, specifically the adductor muscles (adductor flies) and isometric exercises (front and side isometric splits) to help achieve this goal.
  2. Improve Balance: I tend to lose my balance during my higher side kicks as seen on my video, so it makes sense to focus on improving my balance so that the overall poomsae performance is stronger.
  3. Improve Timing: This is probably the most important factor that will require deliberate practice. The timing and rhythm of poomsae is one of the most important factors judges are looking for and it is something I can improve with deliberate practice. See this youtube interview by Master Ashly R Davis of Iron Wood Productions of Grandmaster Raymond Hsu for insider tips for beginner poomsae athletes where he speaks to this topic.

So now that we have reviewed growth mindset, deliberate practice and my 2018 goals, here is the training plan I created. Feel free to download and use for yourself. I plan to post regular photos of my training progress on the new  #Taekwondo_Wellness Instagram account. Lastly, if you want to learn more about growth mindset, take a look at this 2-part blog written by my colleagues at Intuition Wellness Center.

  • TKD Periodization Plan 2018: This is the overall plan for the entire year. More about periodization in a future blog post.
  • TKD Strength Training Log: This is the strength training log. I decided to do strength training twice per week and rest on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
  • TKD Technical Training Log: This is the technical training log where the focus is on improving specific skills in poomsae by drilling my weak areas.

Question: What are your TKD training goals for 2018… and more importantly, what is your plan to achieve them?

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Written by Dr. Yoendry Torres, Psychologist & 4th Dan Taekwondo

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3 Reasons to Incorporate Mindfulness Meditation into Your Training

Meditation is a mental exercise that has been taught and practiced in both traditional and sport Taekwondo dojangs across the world. Meditation has also been featured in countless martial arts movies such as The Karate Kid and USA Taekwondo has written articles about “Clearing Your Mind Using Meditation.” It’s important to know that there are various styles of meditation but for the sake of brevity, we will discuss “mindfulness meditation,” which is the stye taught to students at Taekwondo Wellness.

So what exactly is mindfulness mediation and how can it benefit your martial arts practice?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Thus, mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judgment or criticism. Mindfulness can be practiced both formally and informally. Formal practice is done by setting aside a specified amount of time (e.g., 5, 10, 30 minutes per day, etc) to practice mindfulness while informal practice is done throughout one’s day by simply paying attention at various moments during one’s day (e.g., while eating, showering, walking, training, etc).

 How to Practice

  1. For formal practice: Get into a comfortable position. Can be sitting with legs crossed, sitting in a chair or even laying down. For informal practice simply do steps 2-3 throughout your day for moments at a time.
  2. Close your eyes and inhale. Focus your attention on your breath. Notice if your shoulders, chest, or abdomen move as you inhale or exhale. Continue to breathe in and out at your natural rhythm.
  3. You will soon notice that our mind naturally begin to wonder and experience all sorts of thoughts and feelings and our senses are heighten. For example, you may notice sounds that were in the background that you hadn’t noticed before. This is normal. The task is to simply notice your experience without judgement or criticism and return your attention to your focus of attention (usually one’s breathe but can also be to other things like our sense of sound).

Reasons to Practice

  1. Relaxation is a major benefit of this sort of meditation practice. Sport psychologists have shown that anxiety decreases performance in their research. Thus, if you’re nervous before a promotion test, a competition or even a challenging drill in class, meditation is the antidote!
  2. Meditation helps regulate our energy levels. Research has also found that people have an optimum level of energy where they perform at their best. However, if one’s energy is too high, it becomes difficult to concentrate whether it is poomsae, sparring or breaking. Meditation practice lowers our heart rate, which in turn lowers our energy levels allowing us to concentrate and perform better.
  3. Focus is another added benefit of a regular meditation practice. Let me explain, in how to practice step 3 above, the mind wonders and the task is to return to our chosen focus of attention without judgment. This exercise of being distracted and returning attention, followed by being distracted and returning attention gives us the power to focus our attention to what we choose rather than what the brain wants to experience at that moment. This is vital whether it is in a self defense situation or a competition as one would want to focus on the actions that will lead to the desired outcome rather than on emotions such as fear that may leave us frozen in place.
  4. There are many more evidenced-based benefits to mindfulness, just see this article by the American Psychological Association. For example: Reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility and relationship satisfaction are benefits demonstrated through research.

Now you know how and why to incorporate a practice meditation into your martial arts training. The key, like in martial arts training, is consistency. The more you practice meditation, the more useful it will when you need it. So I recommend you practice at the end of every class, even if it is just for a minute or two.

Question: Do you practice meditation in your martial arts school? If so, what are the benefits you have noticed?

Liked what you read? Ready to join me in the Taekwondo Wellness Program at Intuition Wellness Center?

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation and to get more information on any one of the many services and programs we offer.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D.

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Taekwondo Uniform Sizing 101

It’s common for new students or their parents to have uniform sizing question before purchasing their first uniform. Below is a uniform sizing table and a few guidelines that should help you decide what size Taekwondo uniform to purchase for yourself or your child.

Uniform Sizing Table














3’ 4”

3’ 9”

4’ 2”

4’ 8”

5’ 2”

5’ 6”

5’ 8”

5’ 10”

6’ 0”

6’ 2”

6’ 4”

WEIGHT (lbs)












A Few Guidelines
  1. The uniform sizes start from 000 and go up to size 8.
  2. The uniform sizes are based on the height (inches) and weight (lbs) of the student.
  3. When choosing the size of the uniform choose the larger size if there is a size difference between height and weight.
    1. For example, if the student’s height is 4’3″ (size 0) but their weight is 60 lbs (size 00), choose the larger size (size 0).
    2. The same would be true if a student weighted 160 lbs (size 3) and was 5’2″ (size 2), choose the larger size (size 3).
  4. Please know that new uniforms tend to shrink a bit when washed for the first time. So take that into account when purchasing your uniform.
  5. New uniforms usually also come with a matched size white belt; however, some do not, so make sure that the uniform description states it comes with a white belt before purchasing if you are a new student.
  6. Students that have tight fitting uniform tops but pants that fit correctly should purchase a larger size uniform that will fit their comfortably and hem the pants. Alternative, two uniforms can also be purchased.
  7. Parents may be tempted to purchase their child a uniform several sizes up given that their child is growing quickly. Although this is cost effective, it may hinder your child’s ability to move freely in class or even trip them up, if the uniform is not hemmed and is overly large and loose on them. Thus if your a parent planning on purchasing a much larger size uniform for your child, please hem the uniform so it does not prevent them from tripping or from executing their full range of motion.
  8. In Taekwondo Wellness, beginning students wear “White V-Neck Taekwondo uniforms while advanced students (Red belt & above) wear “Black V-Neck Taekwondo uniforms.
  9. Taekwondo Wellness students interested in competing in official World Taekwondo/USA Taekwondo tournaments will be required to purchase an additional competition uniform (and other official equipment for sparring) that meets World Taekwondo sparring or World Taekwondo poomsae uniform specifications.

I hope these uniform guidelines were helpful.

Question: What additional tips do you have when sizing your uniform? Write your responses below in the comment section.

Liked what you read? Ready to join me in the Taekwondo Wellness Program at Intuition Wellness Center?

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation and to get more information on any one of the many services and programs we offer.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D.

A Word about Affiliates

The Taekwondo recommended gear above contain affiliate links to products. If you click through and purchase, Intuition Wellness Center will receive a small commission on the sale. Rest assured, we only recommend products or services that our team members personally use or believe will be helpful to our readers or clients.

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3 Ways Courage Impacts Our Mental Health

When I was first learning how to execute a flying side kick over an obstacle, it took quite a bit of mental gymnastics to build up the courage that ultimately helped me overcome my fear. I have seen my students experience similar fears while training and that’s my cue to have a “mat chat” on the topic of indomitable spirit.

Indomitable spirit is having the courage to face one’s fears and possessing unbreakable determination. There is nothing like overcoming our fears to build our self confidence. Here are three ways courage impacts our mental health:

  1. Destroys Anxiety: Fear is at the core of most anxiety disorders and courage may be the antidote. Exposure plus response prevention is the standard treatment for some types of anxiety in which individuals are taught to use coping skills while confronting the very situation that causes anxiety rather than retreating from the fear-inducing situation. As one might imagine, there are plenty of circumstances that incite fear while practicing Taekwondo whether it is when breaking boards, demonstrating poomsae in front of class, or executing a flying side kick over an obstacle.
  2. Builds Confidence: By repeatedly overcoming fear, it becomes easier to face that fear, and other related fears, in the future. In doing so, we build confidence and the more we build confidence the easier it is to have a “yes I can” attitude, which is advantageous both in and out of the dojang.
  3. Create Neurological connections: Interestingly, the two above mental health benefits of indomitable spirit have a neurological basis. Specifically, our brains may develop unhelpful neuropathways over time through experiences that trigger negative thoughts, increase heart rate, and create a feeling of nervousness when confronted with a stressful event. The more one engages in this unhelpful neuropathway, the stronger it gets. On the other hand, the less we engage in this unhelpful neuropathway, the weaker it gets. Moreover, if one develops a healthy response to anxiety, it establishes a healthier neuropathway. Thus, every time we overcome our fears in Taekwondo, we are in fact strengthening our healthy neuropathways and weakening our unhelpful ones.

Keep in mind that fear is a very real experience. It is important to know that with proper guidance and support and a lot of hard work, students can grow and overcome these challenges. If this post was helpful, please leave a comment below and tell us what’s your answer to our question below.

What has been your greatest fear that you have overcome in Taekwondo?

Indomitable spirit is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo taught at Taekwondo Wellness. Check out my previous posts if you’re interested in learning about how perseverancecourtesyintegrity, and self control impact mental health. Also, be on the lookout for my next blog post about indomitable spirit and how it impacts our mental health as well. If you are interested in learning more about our programming, please call 520-333-3320 or visit our dojang at Intuition Wellness Center.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist


Image by: Ayuntamiento Roquetas de Mar

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5 Tips for Perseverance

Have you ever felt like giving up? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone. I won’t lie, when I train hard, my muscles ache and I sometimes think, “what’s the purpose.” Life would be so much simpler without these aches and pains wouldn’t it? Well, that’s debatable! I know that my life would definitely lack depth and the satisfaction of accomplishment that comes when I persevere through life’s trials rather than giving up. So what does perseverance mean and how do we get better at it?

In my last post, I wrote about Integrity: 3 Reasons Accepting Our Failures Lead to Excellence and how important it is to look at our failures as opportunities for growth. Yes, perseverance is not giving up and finishing what you have started. I like to think of perseverance as also not giving up on yourself or your goals. Perseverance is not only an action but the way we think about life’s challenges. It is a goal oriented mindset that helps you push through the tough workouts or other challenges in life. Let me share 5 tips that I’ve learned from my psychology education, clinical work, and from my years of training and teaching Taekwondo that I think will help you have a mindset of perseverance:

  1. Develop goals: Goal setting is a blog in itself (coming soon) and is commonly cited by olympic champions as a primary factor leading to their success. Goals act as our compass not only in sport but in life. Goals are vital at directing our energy productively and motivation that fires us not to give up. However, in order for goals to be effective they need to be personally inspirational and meaningful.
  2. Have shared goals: Whether you’re part of a team or a family, having shared goals makes a huge difference in how all the members work towards a common goal or set of goals rather than against each other. Keeping your shared goal/s in mind at times of hardship comes in handy as it will help guide our behavior towards a mutually beneficial resolution rather than a distancing and destructive resolution.
  3. Plan to achieve: Once you have a goal, the next step is to work out the fine details that will help you achieve it. There are lots of ways to plan and varying degrees of detail. I suggest keeping it simple but specific and measurable. For example, if your goal is to qualify for a state poomsae tournament, then part of your plan might include to conduct strength training 2-3 times per week, to practice poomsae for one hour and flexibility for 30 minutes 4 times per week, and to make sure you are eating a healthy diet consisting of the recommended protein, carb, and fat intake, and getting 8 hours of sleep nightly.
  4. Focus on your daily effort: The plan is built on actions such as training, sleep, and nutrition that are within your control. This is important because we can only control what we do and cannot control what others do. For example, we can control if we training or stretching daily or if we put effort into our training or just go through the motions. As you put your plan into action, you will soon begin to notice the very nature of achieving your daily efforts is very rewarding. Actually, sports psychologists have done research that concludes that athletes who focus on their daily effort rather than the end goal are more satisfied with their accomplishments regardless if they lose the tournament compared to athletes who focused on winning gold.
  5. Accept failures and grow: As mentioned in my previous post, Integrity: 3 Reasons Accepting Our Failures Lead to Excellence, the knowledge we get from failing is priceless and ultimately leads to success if we persevere. Another factor that impacts our ability to persevere is negative self talk, which affects our mood and as a result, our ability to perform at our best. Check out this previous blog post: “Self Control: 3 Mental Abilities That Improve Performance & Wellbeing” for more info on self talk.

Now you have the secret sauce to perseverance, goal setting. Keep your goals in your awareness, or even better, written down. By doing this it will help motivate you towards achieving your goals by more effective training, conflict resolution, and growth. If this post was helpful, please leave a comment below and tell us what’s your answer to our question below.

What goals help you persevere?

Perseverance is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo taught at Taekwondo Wellness. Check out my previous posts if you’re interested in learning about how courtesy, integrity, and self control impact mental health. Also, be on the lookout for my next blog post about indomitable spirit and how it impacts our mental health as well. If you are interested in learning more about our programming, please call 520-333-3320 or visit our dojang at Intuition Wellness Center.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by: BK

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Integrity: 3 Reasons Accepting Our Failures Lead to Excellence

As a clinical psychologist, I find myself looking at the deeper meanings of what my students and clients say and do. For example, how often have we heard a child say “this is easy” while they can barely complete the training drill. This is typically a healthy, normal response in order to maintain our ego or belief that we are “good.” However, the problem lies that this behavior does not demonstrate integrity and can lead to further self deception that limits our ability to improve our skills by learning from our weaknesses. With that said, lets explore the meaning of integrity more and how slight changes in our mindset can make a huge difference in our performance, wellness and lead to excellence.

Integrity is more than just doing the right thing when others aren’t looking. It’s more than being honest with others. I believe integrity is also about being willing to look at oneself in an open and honest way. It is about our willingness to tell ourselves the truth. It is about having awareness of our weaknesses, faults, and failures and seeing them as opportunities to improve. This concept is called growth mindset and Dr. Brandy Baker recently wrote about it on her two part post, “When a Child Says She Hates To Learn, Part One” and Part Two. Here are 3 ways in which integrity can lead to excellence:

  1. Accepting Failure: Being able to accept one’s failures and be motivated by them to improve our performance is crucial to becoming an olympic champion or a master in other areas of our lives. The priceless insights we gain by looking at our failures allows us to identify areas that we can improve and thus improve our performance through deliberate practice as a result.
  2. Examining Failure: Without the ability to see the truth of our failures by examining them with curiosity rather than shame, we miss an opportunity to strengthen our weaknesses bit by bit, which in turn is what sets the best from the rest. Therefore, it is important to help our students shift their mindsets about failure from shame and embarrassment to one of growth and opportunity. One way this is done is by being honest with them; for example, rather than fall into the common trap of telling your student they were cheated from a first place trophy, explain to them in a gentle and compassionate manner that they weren’t good enough. Yes, that was not a typo. Tell your student they weren’t good enough and if that want first place, they are going to have to work hard to earn it. Another example, is to simply lead by example and when we, as instructors, fail at something, think out loud so that our students hear how failure can become an opportunity to get better.
  3. Growing From Failure: Like the phoenix raising from the flames, we too are able to raise stronger after a failure when we have a growth mindset. Yes, the that old adage is true about “the truth can be painful” but what it missed is that it also craves the way for growth. Once we have accepted our failures and see them as an opportunity for growth we can create an improvement plan. The key to this is to identify and deliberately practice the specific ability that caused our initial failure. Thus, if the failure came from poor balance or an improper side kick technique, we would create a training plan that would focus on improving our balance or a plan that helps us develop a stronger side kick technique.

With that said, remember that integrity is about taking an honest look at ourselves and examining what we discover with curiosity in order to identify our areas of growth. These areas of growth, are the ones champions and masters train to achieve the highest level of excellence. If this post was helpful, please leave a comment below and tell us what’s your answer to our question below.

What ways do you respond to failure?

Integrity is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo taught at Taekwondo Wellness. Check out my previous posts if you’re interested in learning about how courtesy and self control impact mental health. Also, be on the lookout for future blog post describing how the other tenets may improve mental health as well. If you are interested in learning more about our programming, please call 520-333-3320 or visit our dojang at Intuition Wellness Center.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by: theilr

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Self Control: 3 Mental Abilities That Improve Performance & Wellbeing

When I enrolled in my first Taekwondo class, I remember instructors expressing a strong emphasis on self control. At that time, in my youth, I understood self control to be strictly about being able to control my body in such a way that it would display balance, power, speed, and accuracy. I have come to discover with my clinical psychology education and my continued Taekwondo training, that our ability to control our body movements is just the physical portion of self control. There is an entire other portion that is rarely discussed during Taekwondo training, the mental portion.

In my last post, I proposed 4 Ways Courtesy May Improve Mental Health and in this post, I want to share how mental control impacts our overall performance and wellbeing. Lets examine 3 mental abilities and how they relate to  self/mental control. Moreover, these skills have been shown to have a significant positive impact Taekwondo performance as well as our performance in our daily lives. Here they are:

  1. Attention: This ability has to do with how well we are able to focus on what we choose rather than be distracted by extraneous stimuli. In the dojang, this might look like not being able to focus on poomsae or basic training drills because your mind is wondering off to problems at home, school, or work. Not surprisingly, our performance decreases if we are not attending to the matters at hand. Thus, it is very important that we are able to improve our mental control of attention.
  2. Self talk: This ability is known to increase or decrease our anxiety depending if it is negative or positive self talk respectively. Negative self talk can be heard when a student is presented with a new challenging drill and it may sound like, “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never be able to…” Needless to say, negative self talk can have a negative impact on self image, confidence, and performance while positive self talk can improve them and as a result should be a vital component of any training curriculum.
  3. Our responses to our emotions: I consider this ability is by far the most important in sport and in life. It is our ability to take a hit in the face and not respond with rage. It is our ability to feel depressed and not hurt ourselves or others. It is our ability to not let our feelings of nervousness stop us from experiencing life. Let me make an important distinction. This ability is not about controlling our emotions. Our emotions are appropriate responses to things that happen. Controlling our responses to our emotions is what we do with those feelings of anger, depression, or anxiety. We can choose to express rage or outstanding sportsmanship. We can choose to seek social support rather than self harm. We can choose find healthy ways channel our anxiety instead of letting it cripple us.

There you have it! Three mental abilities that I encourage all martial arts instructors as well as coaches to incorporate into their lessons. These mental abilities can improve with consistent training, just as balance, power, speed, and accuracy can improve. Research has shown these skills to improve performance as well as our wellbeing.

How do you define self control?

Self control is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo taught at Taekwondo Wellness. Be on the lookout for future  blog post describing how the other tenets may improve mental health as well. If you are interested in learning more about our programming, please call 520-333-3320 or visit our dojang at Intuition Wellness Center.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by: Republic of Korea


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4 Ways Courtesy May Improve Mental Health

In just about every martial arts class students line up at the beginning of class to salute the flags and their instructor. This tradition teaches students to honor their specific martial art heritage and respect their instructor. Courtesy is one of the tenets of Taekwondo and I would argue that it also teaches students the value of respecting themselves and improving their own mental health while they are at it.

Let me explain, courtesy is not just about respecting others, although it certainly is important, it is also about respecting one’s self. How many times have you heard someone insult themselves after a mistake or error. In psychology this self criticism is termed “negative self talk” and can be disastrous for our self-esteem and decrease our ability to perform at our best due to the increase in anxiety that usually accompanies negative self talk.

Here are 4 ways that practice a bit of courtesy can improve our mental health:

  1. Being nice to others may bring a smile to their face, which in turn may bring a smile to your own face and smiling is known to increase “happiness producing” endorphins such as dopamine in our brains.
  2. Respecting others, even in moments of frustration can help reduce increased stress and anger that may result when others disrespect you.
  3. Being nice to ourselves and either eliminating or decreasing negative self talk can boost our self esteem, motivation, and our performance.
  4. Being nice to ourselves can trickle down to the younger generations especially when children overhear how we reframe frustrating or disappointing events into a more positive perspective focused on personal growth rather than criticism.

What are other ways you think courtesy can help mental health?

Courtesy is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo taught at Taekwondo Wellness. Be on the lookout for future  blog post describing how the other tenets may improve mental health as well. If you are interested in learning more about our programming, please call 520-333-3320 or visit our dojang at Intuition Wellness Center.

Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by: Pixabay

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Obesity, Mental Health, & Taekwondo

The Surgeon General reports that “obesity poses a major pubic health challenge” contributing to an estimated 112,000 preventable deaths annually in the United States (Surgeon General, 2010). Obesity can increase health risks to a number of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Surgeon General, 2010). Moreover, there are a number of mental health issues associated with obesity such as depression (Surgeon General, 2010). Not only is obesity a serious health concern for adults but it is also an increasing problem, from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008, seen among U.S. children (Surgeon General, 2010). Furthermore, there are disparities among some racial groups, specially 29% of non-Hispanic black teenagers and 17.5% of hispanics teenagers are obese, while the prevalence for non-Hispanic white teenagers is 14.5 percent (Surgeon General, 2010). The Surgeon General (2010) points out that although obesity is a health crisis among the general population, it is  “even more prevalent in persons with mental illness with some reports indicating 83% of people with serious mental illness being overweight or obese.” The Surgeon General (2010) recommends 60 minutes of physical exercise. However children tend to struggle with the more traditional routine repetitive workouts that a adult may engage in, thus children require physical exercise that rigorous yet fun enough to keep children engaged in the activity.

Taekwondo is a martial art that uses rigorous physical exercise as a primary form of training. Many children find Taekwondo fun and exciting because they are learning an ancient martial art that is not only a sport, but a discipline that promotes healthy living through training the body and mind. For many practitioners, it is a way of living. Taekwondo strengthens the body through rigorous strength and endurance building exercises and cultivates the mind through the teaching of its philosophy and core principles: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit. It is this combination of training the body and mind that has been shown to be effective at reducing aggression (Nosanchuk 1981; Daniels & Thornton 1992; Nosanchuk & MacNeil, 1989; Trulson, 1986; Skelton, Glynn & Berta, 1991; Lamarre & Nosanchuk 1999), increasing self-esteem (Duthie, Hope & Barker 1978; Richman & Rehberg 1986; Kurian, Verdi, Caterino & Kulhavy 1994; Finkenberg, 1990; Trulson, 1986), and decreasing stress (Iso-ahola & Park, 1996; Kurian et al,. 1993; Rothperl, 1980; Foster, 1997, Trulson, 1986). Furthermore, the literature indicates that martial arts are beneficial for various populations, including middle school students (Zivin, et al., 2001), adolescents with a history of violence (Twemlow, & Sacco, 1998), as well as geriatric populations (Cromwell, Meyers, & Newton, 2007).

Intuition Wellness Center is proud to bring Taekwondo Wellness classes this summer (2016) to the Tucson community that will help youth and adults experiencing mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges. Taekwondo Wellness classes will offer instruction in traditional Taekwondo with a focus on the mind-body connection, achieving a healthy balance in life, physical fitness, and relaxation through meditation. Visit our Taekwondo Wellness page to learn more about this exciting new program.

To learn more about obesity visit a previous blog I wrote for Intuition Wellness Center titled: Obesity in the US – Mental Health Implications & Recommendations.

Written by: Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist


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