Kicking Ass and Taking Names for Ten Years

Victor G. Joseph

Let’s be realistic: even the weakest member of the Harvard Taekwondo Club could beat you up. After all, the club has been training students to spar, kick, and break boards for ten years now. It has even given some members an opportunity to fight (sort of) in a zero-gravity environment.

To see what the club has planned for its 10th anniversary, we called President Henry S. Xie '11, who spoke to us over Skype from his home in Sweden.

One event to expect is a visit from the club’s Grandmaster Keun Ha Kim, who will be traveling all the way from Canada to Cambridge in order to test Harvard's black belts. The Grandmaster, who last visited three or four years ago, only makes an appearance for special occasions, said Xie. (Cool fact: taekwondo Olympic silver medalist Mark Lopez, another special guest, helped jumpstart the celebrations last semester by coming to Harvard to run a training seminar.)

According to former club president Khoa Tran '10, the club will be reaching out to alumni through letters and events this spring. Tran said members will also be hosting the "Harvard Open" tournament in April and a “big shindig” with the Brown Taekwondo Club soon after. Since its inception, the Harvard club has had close ties with the Brown club, and the two groups continue to share instructors and partake in an annual retreat together.

The Harvard club, which boasts about 50 members and scores of connected (and fit) alums, hosts five practices a week and several tournaments each semester. The club is “really like a family more than just a club or just a team,” Xie said.

Last year, the club won in its division at the Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference, with two of its female athletes taking gold at nationals. But the club is equally proud of its fun traditions—like Halloween parties, outrageous Secret Santa exchanges, and annual ski trips to Vermont.

“We’re making an effort every year to make new members feel welcome and make everyone bond with each other,” Xie said.

This friendly vibe can be a huge relief to newcomers, who may sometimes feel intimidated by one component of the sport: "sparring" (in which students face off against one another).

“It was really scary at first," Xie said. "It’s a full contact sport. People kick you, and yes you wear protection but it can still hurt. I remember the feeling was so intense, it was almost unreal. But sparring is so dynamic—it’s a lot of fun.”

According to the Harvard Taekwondo website, the club was initiated in September 1999 as the "Harvard World Taekwondo Federation" by a group of students now known as "The Fellowship of the Kick." Under the guidance of Master Peter Lee, the team has gone on to dominate tournaments at NYU, Cornell, Princeton and beyond, in addition to doing taekwondo demonstrations at community events and holding kick-a-thon fundraisers each year. The club was renamed “Harvard Taekwondo” in August 2003—and they've been bonding, growing, and kicking ever since.

Photo courtesy of Victor G. Joseph '08.

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