Tae kwon do camp teaches respect

BY CARLOS SOSA | JUNE 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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Self-control and indomitable spirit.

These are the five tenets of tae kwon do.

"It's is based on respect," instructor Nick Messersmith said. "In tae kwon do, they believe if you follow those rules inside and outside of the classroom, that you can live the perfect life."

For most 5- and 6-year-olds, a perfect life may consist of eating ice cream or playing at the playground. But Elijah and Isaiah Morris' "perfect life" is beginning to take hold in the form of tae kwon do classes.

Six-year-old Elijah said he participated because it sounded fun and he wanted to learn martial arts.

Over the next week, the brothers will learn basic self-defense moves and how to punch, kick, and block.

But Elijah and Isaiah will learn more than that this week. For instance, they'll learn about respect and their parents' birthdays.

Messersmith asks the kids to do some homework after class. Besides learning the five tenets, he asks the kids to memorize the their parents' birthdays.

This is how respect is learned through tae kwon do. The core of the martial art is respect — not only for oneself but also for elders and peers.

"The focus [of the camp] is on respect," said Elijah and Isaiah's father, Bryan Morris. "He [Messersmith] gives them homework, like making their beds and remembering their parents' birthdays."

This homework is a way for kids to begin learning how to respect their environment. It allows them to understand the importance of the five tenets that dominate tae kwon do.

"I've been pleasantly surprised with what they've taught," Morris said.

It could be difficult to instill the five tenets in kids still in kindergarten, not to mention developing respect. But Messersmith experienced the difficulty of grasping the sport when he was learning and can relate to his students in this way.

"I remember what it was like being 5," he said. "My father had to enroll as well because I was so shy, and then after I got comfortable, he quit. I try to incorporate how I remember learning tae kwon do into the class."

Messersmith was a student of Grandmaster Yong Chin Pak, an eighth-degree black belt in tae kwon do who has taught martial arts at Iowa State since 1975.

Messersmith tries to instill the lessons he learned from Pak in his class. His teaching seems to have resonated with some of his students.

"I like that I'm very good at it [tae kwon do], and I like my instructor," Elijah said.

Teaching young children can be tough. For Messersmith, however, it's about showing the kids how he learned tae kwon do and allowing them to learn it at a comfortable pace.

"From the school I came from, I had no choice but to learn tae kwon do. If not, we'd have to do pushups on our knuckles," Messersmith said. "So I said if I wanted to teach kids that I wanted to make it fun. So I slowed [the class] down and allowed them to learn differently than I did."

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