A martial artist who has been studying taekwondo since 1977, owns a 6th-degree black belt in the art, can lay folks out flat with a simple flick of the wrist, and runs not just one, but two successful taekwondo dojangs in Woodville and Columbus Grove, Sr. Master James P. Taylor isn’t sweating much these days.
It’s not because Taylor is some sort of hard case. On the contrary he is quite possibly one of the most peaceful, outgoing, friendly, and warmest gentlemen one could ever meet.
The reason he’s not sweating much, is because in the last three months, he’s taken a centuries-old Korean martial art from the hard floor into the pool for perhaps the newest, coolest wave in martial arts, self-defense training and all-around health and fitness he simply likes to call H2O taekwondo.
The impetus behind this idea? To welcome in a whole new demographic of potential TKD students who might not otherwise have ever had the opportunity to study the martial arts due to age, physical limitations and trepidation to check out a rigid, traditional dojang (school) environment. To become a better instructor. To meet new, interesting people. And oh, yes. . .to have a whole lot of fun doing it.
“The benefit of this class, beyond the idea, of course, that one can get a great aerobic workout in the water, is that when we teach taekwondo in the pool, we’re teaching the exact same techniques of self-defense we teach on land, only it’s much easier for students who might have balance issues, or people trying to come back from knee surgeries, or older and much younger folks,” offers the 55-year-old native of Walbridge, and owner of Taylor’s Tae Kwon Do, Tumbling & Dance in Woodville. He also holds an additional black belt (3rd degree) in the Korean grappling art of hapkido, and is also proficient in the Filipino stick-fighting discipline of kali.
“For instance, when I look at the dynamics of my class this past summer (at the Woodville Pool, where the class debuted in July), I had students all the way from 8-year-olds, to people in their 20s and 40s, to 70-some-year-olds,” he said. “I think H2O TKD was a chance for them to meet new people, have fun doing it, and get involved in something new they might not have otherwise had the chance to.
“In H2O TKD, we do basic tae kwon do kicks like groin kicks and front kicks up and down the length of the pool. For those with balance problems, we do them in place, while holding onto the side of the pool,” he said. “We do a lot of our more advanced hand basics, because we want to move a lot of water, and get that nice resistance training in.” “I demonstrate practical self-defense applications first on land, on one of my black belts, and then we hop back into the water and let the students try,” he said, adding “H2O TKD is great cross-training for young athletes, to increase their skills, balance, and cardio-endurance. It’s nice for improving things like posture and strength, and it’s great low-impact exercise for those with arthritis, joint problems, and past injuries.
“It’s also a great ice-breaker for folks who have always been curious about the martial arts, but who at the same time maybe have cold feet about stepping into a traditional tae kwon do class. And, it’s a lot of fun.”
H2O TKD is typically practiced in about three to four feet of water which checks in right around a refreshing 75-80 degrees, however, there’s also an option of deep-water training, for which buoyancy belts are typically provided. For Master Taylor’s more-experienced TKD students, and adventurous new adherents alike, a pool’s diving board can be brought into the training equation, serving as a launching pad off which to execute flying sidekicks, spinning heel kicks, double jumping front kicks and other techniques. Students are never forced to do something they’re not comfortable with, and Taylor stresses everybody working to their own level and ability.
Though the classes are fun, participants learn real self-defense techniques including sweeps, throws, joint locks, arm bars, distraction strikes, effective hair pulling, and the force it requires to snap a thug’s leg with a well-placed kick to the knee.
“I’d tell people to give it a try,” said 2nd-degree tae kwon do black belt Rob Cashen, a Genoa firefighter and a new H2O TKD convert. “It’s not a traditional class, it’s more like water aerobics, it’s a little more laid-back, and it’s just a lot of fun. If you’ve ever been even remotely curious about the martial arts, this is the class. Plus, you’re still learning self-defense techniques.”
Veteran yoga instructor and personal trainer Kim Collins agreed. “I wanted to try H2O TKD because I knew it’d be easier on my joints,” says Collins, who has owned and operated her own yoga studio in Waterville for six years now. “I have arthritis in most places, and I felt the warm water would help me move without pain. I learned a lot.”
Woodville Pool manager Dawn Peters, who was the first to embrace H2O TKD this past summer at her facility said, “When (Master Taylor) first approached me about H2O TKD, my immediate reaction was ‘Yes,’ because I’d always wanted a fitness class here at the pool for the adults of the community to come down and enjoy.
“And I was very pleasantly-surprised that from the start, half the class was made up of kids,” Peters said. “People have definitely been excited about it, and I’ve already informed (Master Taylor) that we want this class back at the pool next summer.”
“I think the really cool part about H2O TKD is that it’s opening up the martial arts to a whole-new scope of people we probably wouldn’t have otherwise reached,” Taylor said. “Because in some cases we’re getting them into the pool, they’re learning something new and loving it, their confidence is building, and they’re getting curious about stepping foot into a traditional tae kwon do studio after all. Plus, they’re getting that great low-impact workout in.”
Want to find out more about taking the plunge into H2O TKD this fall? Taylor at 419- 704-4407 or visit taylorstnt.com for class times, locations, rates and further details.
Sr. Master James P. Taylor’s H2O TKD combines a low-impact workout and the basics of self-defense techniques.