WIESBADEN, Germany - People study martial arts for various reasons, according to Wiesbaden's Tang Soo Do instructor. These include self-defense, enhancing overall mental and physical health, and gaining self-confidence.
Sherry Woodward, a Black Belt in the traditional Korean martial art, military veteran and Department of the Army civilian with the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, said her lifelong relationship with Tang Soo Do has been rewarding -- both as a student and as a teacher.
"I like mentoring. I like teaching -- seeing the light turn on -- helping my students to develop and grow," said Woodward, who leads Tang Soo Do classes at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-7:15 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
"We have about 20 students -- 13 of whom are the die-hards. These include military members, family members, civilians, adults and children ages 10 and up," she said.
"We always do the basics -- kicks, punches and blocking," said Woodward. "We also do practical applications of what they've learned -- the techniques that we practice over and over again -- which they need for testing. We have one-step sparring, we go over hand techniques, kicking techniques and grabbing techniques. The forms that we do are similar to Japanese karate."
Students help each other hone their skills, she said, explaining that not everyone learns the same way.
"My son loves training with Mrs. Woodward," said Staff Sgt. Samuel Sainvilus, "and looks forward to it every week. I have seen a lot of growth in my son's personality, fitness and courage over the past year."
Sainvilus added that his son is "no longer scared to intervene in situations where teachers or school staff are not present" when dealing with a bully.
And while Tang Soo Do students quickly learn valuable techniques to defend themselves, "the big thing that we focus on and stress is avoidance," she said, explaining that violent confrontations should be avoided whenever possible.
"Tang Soo Do goes back 2,000 years and was influenced by the Tang Dynasty," Woodward said, explaining that over the years many different fighting and self-defense techniques were incorporated into the traditional Korean martial art.
"I started back in the '70s when I was a teenager. I earned my first degree black belt when I was stationed in Korea in 1984," she said, adding that since Wiesbaden Tang Soo Do is a studio under the World Tang Soo Do Association she has the authority to teach and give tests.
She recently took several of her students to a competition in Germany where they earned gold, silver and bronze medals.
"It was neat to see their confidence building," Woodward said. "I was very proud of them. The students did really well."
Woodward added that she enjoys sharing her love of the discipline with her husband and son who are also active in Tang Soo Do.
"It's definitely a lifestyle -- people stay in it. It has a family feel," she said.
The Wiesbaden instructor said she welcomes students of all skill levels and martial arts backgrounds. "If someone comes in with experience from elsewhere I welcome that; I'm always on the lookout for different techniques."
For student Percy Link, Tang Soo Do has meant continuing practicing something he started when he was 9 years old. "The style which I've practiced the most is called Shotokan which is basically the Japanese version of Tang Soo Do which is Korean."
Training in Tang Soo Do can be beneficial on several levels, Link said.
"Mentally, one learns to focus on the task at hand because there are many things going on in our lives on a daily basis, but when we bow at the door to enter the class environment, those issues/problems become peripheral so that we can work on our craft," he said. "It has changed over the years, but these days I use martial arts as a stress reliever. After a long day of sitting for eight to nine hours at a desk and dealing with some of my lovely coworkers, I get to come to class where it is commonplace to punch, kick and scream."
Like other classes at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center, Tang Soo Do classes cost $5 a lesson -- or $45 for a booklet of 10 lessons. "Interested participants can just drop by a class -- the first one is free," Woodward said.
For more information visit Wiesbaden Tang Soo Do on Facebook, email the instructor at email@example.com or call civ (0151) 1007-8178.