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Tae Kwon Do good for mind, body, and soul

Fri, Mar 29th, 2013
Posted in All Features

Janette Dragvold of Lanesboro practices her kicking with Jerry Bartley during a Tae Kwon Do lesson. Photo by Jade Sexton

Martial arts have been practiced by people for thousands of years, and the tradition continues on. The art of self-defense is a little different depending on the country of origin. In Japan, they have Karate or Aikido. In Korea, Tae Kwon Do. There are many other types of martial arts that originated throughout Europe and Asia.

The Park Institute of Tae Kwon Do has a main office in Rochester, but branch classes are available in many areas. Jerry Bartley has been an instructor for 22 years. He took his first Karate class at age 11, and the martial arts have been his passion ever since.

For ten years, Bartley has been helping people outside of Rochester by teaching classes in Lanesboro, Eyota, and Preston. The classes can have anywhere from five students to 20. Bartley said he likes to start the kids at age five, when they can tell left from right and have an appropriate attention span. There is no limit to how old you can be and still practice Tae Kwon Do.

“I would encourage anyone to practice a martial art,” said Bartley. “I wouldn’t call one art better than another. They are all different.”

The benefits of practicing Tae Kwon Do go beyond physical activity. The movements and discipline involved help improve flexibility, self-esteem, self-control, and all around good health. Bartley finds that the greatest benefit for children in the class is focus.

“A lot of it is the instructor,” he shared. “You have to find an instructor that you can trust.”

The main school in Rochester has two or three classes every day, with an average of 30 people in each class. Bartley has a class in Lanesboro Thursday nights and Preston Tuesday nights. The cost of the class is $25 a month, and there is no limit to how many classes a person can attend. There is also a cost for uniforms and competitions.

A person starting out in Tae Kwon Do will wear a white belt, and there are ten steps between that and a black belt. Students compete against someone usually of the same age, weight and rank. Bartley explained the testing includes the movements, breaking boards, and surprisingly, good grades.

“If you don’t have all A’s and B’s you can’t test for a black belt,” Bartley said.

There are obvious health benefits to being physically active, but the practice of Tae Kwon Do has also been known to help physical ailments. Bartley has seen people with physical limitations and problems benefit from the class and show improvements, although he does not claim it is a cure for anything. Also, young children with problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), learning disabilities and behavior problems have shown improvements with the practice of martial arts. Bartley described how remembering a pattern of movements can help people to focus.

Bartley is quick to point out that Tae Kwon Do, like all martial arts, is the practice of self-defense, and they do not encourage fighting and violence.

One of the biggest benefits of the practice is self-esteem. “Every one and a half to two months you see progress as you move up,” stated Bartley. “It’s something you can be proud of.”

Bartley isn’t in this to make money. “Seeing kids’ faces when they break through something is what it’s about.”

More information on Tae Kwon Do and the Park Institute can be found at

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