Monday, March 16, 2015

Invoking the Tigress

by Master Doug Cook
Tae kwon do is frequently described by critics, often disparagingly, as a “women’s sport” largely because so many females participate. Frankly, as a professional instructor, I feel this is due to the fact that the national martial art of Korea is a highly empowering
discipline especially if taught in a traditional manner. Historically, aside from its value to the civilian population, one must recall that tae kwon do was partially created as a method of self-defense for soldiers on the field of battle. Moreover, it was repeatedly proven effective during combat in the jungles of Vietnam and throughout the Korean Conflict. Is it any wonder then why women – who from time immemorial have been convinced of their physical inferiority when compared to their male counterparts – would choose to embrace a legitimate vehicle for nurturing self-confidence that clearly encourages a break with the conventional model of women being defenseless individuals? Subsequently, for this article featuring women in tae kwon do, I have requested several of my adult female students to address this component of their practice through the written word. I hope you find their heartfelt responses inspiring!

Olga Pico/Black Belt 3rd Dan: Traditional tae kwon do has nurtured my self- confidence. I stand up taller and keep my head up. Throughout life we all face different challenges and with experience you learn and feel more confident about handling situations. As a tae kwon do practitioner, it is difficult to learn a new poomsae. However, each time one is mastered you feel a great sense of accomplishment thus increasing your confidence. I apply this life lesson to all my endeavors and it helps me succeed in general.

Jean Bailly-Orlovsky/Black Belt 3rd Dan: Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” With this in mind, traditional tae kwon do training has enhanced my self-awareness and given me the confidence to persevere in various situations that I might not have had the determination for in the past. Meditation encourages me to slow my mind and embrace enlightened perspective. The physical training is active meditation, which unifies mind, body and spirit and liberates me to pursue a sanguine life.

Mary Dacchille-Sulesky/Black Belt 3rd Dan: Self-confidence is something that starts out as a small seed inside your head. If the seed is watered, given sun, care, and allowed to grow, it will transcend your body and become a part of the way the world sees you. Traditional tae kwon do has allowed me to use my body in a way I would have never thought possible. Our master, Doug Cook, is fond of saying that there is no elevator to the top floor of tae kwon do; it is a walk-up. We all started at white belt and worked our way up earning our belts as we progressed. I did not start with a lot of confidence, but I was nurtured in a traditional environment at my dojang. Like a seed that is properly cared for, I have grown and now I walk with my shoulders back and my head high. I know that if I am willing to practice the martial art of tae kwon do, I can achieve so much in my life.

Pamela Roeloffs/Black Belt 3rd Dan: At the start of a new belt level, I have “beginner’s mind”. This is an expression of innocence as dictated by Buddhist teachings, but it is frequently accompanied by confusion and frustration. Chosun Taekwondo Academy’s exceptional instructors help build my confidence by encouraging the techniques that I perform correctly and demonstrating those that need improvement. By the end of each belt or stripe level I feel comfortable and confident with my techniques. It is a repeating cycle that I journey through as I progress in my traditional tae kwon do training. It is a process that manifests itself in my daily routine thus providing empowerment and a quiet sense of self-confidence.

Amy Fitzpatrick Smith/Black Belt 3rd Dan: My father used to tell me to walk like I was carrying a gun. This gave me an air of confidence, of being unapproachable. Had I been attacked by a strong man, what would I have done, exactly? As a black belt studying traditional tae kwon do, I know the answer to that: learn authentic self-defense. This gives me true confidence. I still walk like I’m carrying a gun, but being empty handed has a whole new meaning for me now.

Pamela Pyke/Black Belt 3rd Dan: Practicing traditional tae kwon do instills in me strength, dignity and poise. My confidence has been nurtured and challenged throughout my entire journey
over the ranks. Finding the strength and stamina to train has done nothing
less than thrill me. What a joy it is to be so aware of one's physical
body. I am slowly discovering who I am as a martial artist. I take great
pride in knowing I can defend myself and even others if need be.

Linda Taylor/Black Belt 2nd Dan
: At 21 I was attacked on the street by teenage girls. I remember my fear, and my flailing, ineffectual attempts to hit back. I'm now very confident that I can do a far better job of defending myself. Fighting doesn't come easily to most women. Tae kwondo has taught me to be disciplined, strong and confident in the power of our techniques. Today, walking down the street, I feel proud, powerful and much safer.

Nancy Bree Garrett/Black Belt 3rd Dan:
Sometimes when I see someone my age struggle to climb the stairs to my art studio, I think, ‘that’s not me’. When I see women who are fearful, I think, ‘that’s not me’. When I walk down the street feeling my body strong and upright, my legs moving free and easy, and my breath coming strong and steady, I marvel that I feel this way. The strength of mind, body and spirit that my tae kwon do training brings me - That’s me!

Terrie Wynne/Black Belt 4th Dan:
Self-confidence is a funny thing. It sneaks up on you. After years of traditional training I have learned thirty-three forms. I never would have said I had the confidence to teach, but as I learned the forms, the confidence grew. So much so, that I am now an instructor, passing on and instilling self-confidence in others. Additionally, it is now a humorous fact that when my husband and I travel, he claims to feel safer with me at his side. Confidence!

Master Doug Cook, a 6th dan black belt, is head instructor of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy located in Warwick, New York, a senior student of Grandmaster Richard Chun, and author of four best-selling books entitled: Taekwond-Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior, Traditional Taekwondo - Core Techniques, History and Philosophy, Taekwondo–A Path to Excellence and his most recent contribution, Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae- Original Koryo and Koryo, co-authored with Grandmaster Richard Chun, all published by YMAA Publications Inc. He can be reached for lectures, seminars or questions at or


  1. When I look at that picture of me and my Taekwondo sisters, I feel such pride and gratitude to be training side by side with them. Thanks to Master Cook and the pure-form traditional Taekwondo taught at Chosun Taekwondo Academy.

  2. I was not aware by the meditation techniques before but with the help your blog i got the the things. Thanks for sharing it with us!