How Taekwondo taught me to overcome adversity
Luis Felipe describes his nine-year-old self as a “troublesome” child. Today, he is a Taekwondo teacher and military man with an immense sense of gratitude and resilience. What made all the difference? Taekwondo.
The World Health Organization states that early childhood development depends on creating conditions for children to thrive in their physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive development, yet many children — particularly those living in poverty — do not grow up in such conditions.
Associação Jadir de Taekwondo (AJTKD), a non-profit organization in Rio De Janeiro providing youth with free access to sport and educational opportunities, is working to combat this reality for so many children, including Luis.
But his life-changing involvement with the organization at such a young age happened by chance.
“The Community Taekwondo Project was being held at the school I studied, in the Campinho neighborhood. One day, Master Jadir presented a lecture at my school about Taekwondo, showing AJTKD’s work to the students. He invited us to join. I went there and, at first, I thought that it would be like a child’s play, but little did I know that this child’s play would make a lot of difference in my life,” he said.
Luis is far from the only adult whose involvement with Associação Jadir de Taekwondo had an immeasurable impact. Over the course of 18 years, the organization has improved the lives of over 6,000 children. According to Luis, that difference stems from the organization’s connection between sport, school and home that instills values and discipline in young students.
“After the training sessions, Master Jadir always sat down with the students and asked how things were going at home. The interesting part is that, not only did he ask us about these things, but he also kept in contact with our parents to know exactly what was going on with us and if we were really improving on our behavior at home.”
For him, Master Jadir, the founder of the organization, taught him how to apply traditionally athletic training to all aspects of his life.
“It’s interesting that, usually, a martial arts teacher, the coach, he has a goal of training that young athlete for some time, so that he could be a champion and have a lot of victories in the future, but maybe the higher goal, which he always puts first, is the formation of the human being, the person as part of the society.”
Now, as a Taekwondo instructor at AJTKD, Luis sees the transformative power of commitment and values first hand, both for students and their parents. After being raised alone by his mother who worked often and made an enormous effort to enroll Luis in the program, he now urges parents to go the extra mile, even in challenging times, in order to support the development of their children.
Similarly, his ability to overcome adversity — a trait developed during his time at AJTKD — is what he works to impart on to the next generation of Brazilian youth.
“The message that I give to the new students of the project is: commit yourselves and give your best, not only on the mats but at home, with your parents, and at school. We live through such difficult times, where there is a big inversion of values. You will find a lot of people, like I did, offering bad things to you, you will have bad moments, but don’t give up on your main purpose: to be a champion in sport and in life.”
Associação Jadir de Taekwondo (AJTKD) is a non-profit organization, founded in April 2000 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which develops social, cultural and sport projects aimed at children and adolescents living in deprived areas.