Liu ’13 Brings Taekwondo to Lawrence Boys And Girls Clubs in New Service Project

Darlina Liu ’13 walked in on chaos when she opened the doors of the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club: 24 10-year-old boys and girls practicing their Taekwondo moves in preparation for their first lesson. On April 4, Liu led the first of many hour-long Taekwondo and self-defense classes as part of “Taekwondo Kids,” her new community service program for Andover students. In addition to mastering Taekwondo routines, Liu hopes her students will gain both physical and mental strength from the classes. Having practiced Taekwondo since the third grade, Liu knows what it can do for one’s personality. “I myself have really enjoyed Taekwondo. It has helped me come out of my shell,” Liu said. “When I was younger, before I started [practicing Taekwondo], I was a pretty shy, pretty timid kid, and just going through the whole Taekwondo experience gave me a lot of self-confidence and really strengthened me.” Liu initially planned for the program to be exclusively for girls, because when she learned Taekwondo growing up, she was the only girl in her class. “I wanted… to get over that inequality of the number of girls interested in Taekwondo and increase [female] interest. I feel like, [with] a female teaching Taekwondo, any girls in the class would also feel empowered to [continue],” she said. She ultimately chose to make the program co-educational to give both girls and boys a chance to participate. However, based on the success of the first day of classes, Liu wrote in an e-mail to The Phillipian that future sessions will include a girls-only “subset program” called “Taekwondo for Girls.” For the first session, Liu divided the 24 participants into two sections and conducted two separate hour-long sessions. She used the first meeting to familiarize herself with the dynamic of her group of students in order to better plan out future sessions. Michael May ’13, a volunteer for Liu’s program, said, “[The students] were very energetic. We had these big [rolled-up mats] in the room, and the kids, as soon as they walked into the room and saw those things, they all just ran to them and started all-out attacking them. It was pretty fun for the first part, but then we had to settle them down a little.” Liu said, “The first session was a little bit hectic, because we were trying out the lesson plan for the first time, seeing how everything went, getting used to the space, and all that. But the second session we did was really successful. Everybody listened. It went really smoothly, and we got through the entire lesson plan. I think that people got a lot out of it.” Liu hopes that her program, which meets every Wednesday, will keep participants exercising on a consistent basis. “Obesity is a big problem in the nation, and [Taekwondo] is a great form of exercise… and a great way to get your heart pumping and keep healthy,” said Liu. Each lesson will consist of warming up for 15 minutes, learning new kicking and punching moves and reviewing previous ones, according to Liu. Sessions will end with the practice of forms, a series of moves that students will memorize in sequence. Liu began planning the program in September and has since worked to solidify the curriculum and acquire the proper equipment. Because the students have a variety of prior Taekwondo experience, Liu hopes to split the students into level-based sections in the future. “We’re just starting out, and we have budgetary constraints. But hopefully next year, we’ll be able to get uniforms and belts for all the students. That would be great,” added Liu.