Edgefield Secondary believes that good character can be cultivated through the practice of Taekwondo. This belief extends to their approach towards the National School Games. Here’s how the team learnt to adapt this year and cope with the COVID-19 situation. By Tung Yon Heong
At Edgefield Secondary School, every student is trained in the art of Taekwondo. All Secondary 1 and 2 students partake in Taekwondo training in school for an hour every week. For the Secondary 3s and 4s, they can opt-in if they wish to further their training and level up their belt rank.
“It’s not that we want to make a Bruce Lee out of everybody,” says Mr Jeffery Nah, the teacher-in-charge of the Taekwondo programme at Edgefield Secondary. “We use Taekwondo to teach our students important values such as respect and resilience.”
Students bow before the hall, into which they enter to begin their training. They also bow to their instructors, teachers and to each other.
“It is way of showing respect to the venue and to the people around you. Our teachers and instructors also bow to the students to demonstrate mutual respect,” he says.
Not all students come in as novices. There will be some who have had prior experience. Edgefield Secondary sorts the training sessions according to the nine different belt ranks.
The school sent 39 students to the National School Games (NSG) this year. And given its unique programme, it’s not surprising to learn that half of the team did not come from the Taekwondo CCA.
“Our focus is not really to win the competition,” says Mr Nah, “It’s about giving more students the chance to represent the school.”
Mr Jeffrey Nah believes martial arts is an effective way for students to build character
For those not in the CCA, they first express their interest in taking part in the competition. The teachers and coach will then observe their training sessions.
“We don’t just evaluate their skills … it’s not about picking the most skilled students for the teams. We want to see whether they show a positive attitude towards training and competing,” says Mr Nah.
Adapting to a different style
For this year’s NSG, sports that involved physical contact were not allowed, so students specialising in the Taekwondo Kyorugi (or sparring) style had to switch to the Poomsae style. Poomsae is form of simulated combat involving attack and defense moves such as kicking, blocking and striking.
For Dylan Tay, the captain of the school’s Taekwondo CCA, making the switch from Kyorugi to Poomsae was difficult at first.
“The postures are different. I had to learn to kick much higher, at the head level. However, you would be disqualified if you did that in Kyorugi,” says Dylan. “I also had to practise exerting more force for my punches and learn to synchronise with my teammates’ movements.”
Edgefield Secondary’s Girls Taekwondo team practise synchronising their moves
For 1.5 hours two times a week, the Secondary 4 student would be hard at work practising the moves with his CCA mates. They would record each other’s routines and work together to correct their mistakes.
Still, when the NSG finally began, Dylan, who has a black belt, experienced self-doubts.
“I felt a little nervous at first. But I told myself that I had to stay confident to put on my best performance. It was the last chance to represent my school and I felt proud to do so,” says Dylan.
But for Mr Nah, Dylan and his teammates are already champions in his eyes.
“The fact that you are willing to put yourself out there to compete and overcome your fears, that shows me you are a winner,” he says.
Due to social distancing measures, the judges were not physically present at the competition venue. Dylan and his teammates’ performances were recorded by a camera. The footage was then sent to the judges to evaluate.
With the suspension of the NSG and the arrival of the June holidays, the team will be taking break from practising their moves. Dylan, along with his teammates who are preparing for their national exams, will instead be focussed on studying. But when school reopens and CCAs resume, they will still meet up with their juniors from time to time, to encourage them and help them with their training.