By: Lily Criswell and Tracy Truong
Think back to when you were a child. What did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
While some children want to be veterinarians or astronauts, Dylan Elkington wanted to be a Ninja Turtle Power Ranger.
“I told my mom that I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle Power Ranger when I grew up, and then for my birthday, she got Groupons for 7 free weeks of Taekwondo. I started doing it in June of 2015, and then I just stuck with it,” said Dylan.
As with most other combat sports, Taekwondo has its own approach and rankings.
“There are two different types of Taekwondo. There’s traditional and American. Traditional isn't as popular as the American version. Each type has a different belt system and different forms – I do the American type. Each belt has different forms that progressively get longer and have more difficult techniques. For example, the white belt has 18 moves, and then the last one, a ninth degree black belt, has 99 moves. I'm a third degree black belt, which is more about balanced forms.”
Dylan cited many people who demonstrate perseverance as his inspiration to keep doing Taekwondo.
“Coaches, friends, and one of my instructors, Kevin. He is always a positive and funny guy. He always gives good feedback to everybody, and he really focuses on students even if there's other things going on in his life. Despite huge life events, he's still been showing up and working with the kids. I've been trying to tell him he doesn't need to, but he still is, and he's definitely had a huge impact on myself and others.”
What Dylan enjoys most is Xtreme Martial Arts (XMA). It is a mixture of traditional and freestyle martial arts, gymnastics, and traditional weapons, including high kicks, tricks, and exciting techniques.
Dylan explained, “There are eight events at an XMA tournament – the first four are called traditional events and that's just forms. You get to pick a song and then come up with a form to perform with it. It’s very fun to put stuff together, practice, and then show it off at tournaments. One of the songs I performed to is called Run Boy Run by Woodkid.”
This combat sport is very beneficial not only for the body, but also for the mind.
“Taekwondo does a lot for your body, such as building up your core strength. One thing we really try to focus on is discipline and respect as well. Almost everybody I've seen started off disrespectful. Even when I was younger, I was kind of cocky and thought I could do whatever I wanted because I was the best. Then, I got into Taekwondo and got humbled a little,” admitted Dylan.
Like every other sport, there are challenges in Taekwondo as well.
Dylan said, “The most challenging thing is the mindset. You have to try to make sure you're not being too hard on yourself. You might tell yourself that you haven’t been doing well today or that you’re struggling with something. But, over time, the more you work on it, the more advanced you’ll get and the more difficult tricks and kicks you can do.
He also mentioned, “Another challenge is flexibility. It takes many years to develop and get to a point where you’re able to get your kicks high enough. I just try to focus on holding balance.”
Although there are a considerable amount of challenges in the world of Taekwondo, Dylan doesn’t let it get to him. After practicing for so long, he has learned a thing or two.
With that, he has some advice for those who are interested in pursuing some type of martial arts.
“I would say just stick with it. Taekwondo may start off hard and you may be struggling with something, but as long as you keep in mind that overtime you'll get there, then at some point you will be wherever you want to be.”