Since the age of five, Junior Shobin Ansite has been practicing taekwondo, a Korean style of martial art in which practitioners learn respect, discipline, and combat. Since Ansite began training, he has advanced to a second-degree black belt, one of the highest rankings available.
The taekwondo belt system is an elaborate and lengthy process that requires many years of work to advance at a sufficient and rapid rate. Most practitioners start at the white level and work their way up. There are ten levels in taekwondo, shifting through colors like gold, green, blue, red, and black. Each level starts with the base color before starting a test to move up to the next. Once the black belt is reached, a practitioner must go through nine degrees of black belts to fully complete taekwondo training. In total, a practitioner can receive 18 different belts. This process usually takes several years.
For over 12 years, Ansite has been participating in training to reach his mastery in taekwondo while teaching younger practitioners about the basics of the martial art. “I now teach taekwondo, so it is a job for me. I am around it all the time, and it is the only thing I do outside of school. I really enjoy everything about it.”
More than 70 million people worldwide practice taekwondo, with roughly 4 million people obtaining a black belt – just over 5% of all practitioners. This shows Ansite’s true dedication and skill, as receiving a black belt is no easy feat.
Ansite is not only drawn to the martial art for the different social tools you learn, but also the physical aspect of the martial art. “I like to hit things a lot, so that aspect is really fun. I also really enjoy sparring, which is where two people fight each other,” he said. Sparring is a crucial aspect of taekwondo as it helps teach students how to fight a moving object. Even though both fighters wear full padding and headgear, a more uncontrolled environment creates more real-world scenarios for students.
Taekwondo was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1988 as a demonstration, but formally gained medal status at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. In the past several decades, taekwondo’s global position and popularity have increased swiftly. Since 2000, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Iran, and the U.S. have been among the countries with the most medal wins – every nation with one gold medal, with several other nations obtaining medals across both men’s and women’s sparring.
Taekwondo’s versatile ability to teach mental, defensive, and offensive fighting moves is another reason for its popularity. Even though taekwondo is its own martial art and wasn’t intended for self-defense, it can be used in that form. Blocking, dodging, and other footwork skills taught in a taekwondo class can help practitioners get through a real-life scenario. While other sports like baseball, basketball, and soccer may focus on speed, strength, and agility, none of those can translate to a dangerous real-world scenario as taekwondo does.
Ansite heavily encourages others to join and have this type of training. “I think people should start taekwondo because it is a fun thing to do to build up your self-defense skills as well as teach you courtesy and discipline.”
Ansite hopes to continue his practicing of taekwondo long after college in hopes of receiving his mastery and a ninth-degree blackbelt.