NIU student aims for ‘88 Olympics

By Louise M. Koryta

NIU tae kwon do instructor Mike Park might be a competitor in the 1988 Olympics—if the sport is accepted.

Coincidentally, tae kwon do originated in Korea, as did Park, a 20-year-old business major and instructor of the NIU Ji-Do-Kwan-Tae Kwon Do Club. He is a second-degree black belt and soon will be testing for third-degree.

Park is the 1986 Oriental Martial Arts Champion and also former first-place winner in the Collegiate Championship and second-place winner in the Illinois State Championship.

Parks said tae kwon do is a growing sport in the world, yet it has not been involved in Olympic competition. The Olympic Committee is contemplating the acceptance of tae kwon do for the 1988 Seoul, Korea Summer Olympics.

Park officially started training 10 years ago, and received his black belt after only two years of daily training. Rod Karmenzind, a green-stripe belt and representative for the club says Park is a national contender and “Olympic hopeful.” Park, however, modestly said that “everyone is an Olympic hopeful.”

Club member Andy Reeves, a red belt, said he would not doubt it if Park made the Olympic team.

When not in school, Park resides in Rockford where he still goes once a week to train with fifth-degree black belt Song Sup An, who Park says is his greatest influence.

Park started the club two years ago when he came to NIU. It now consists of about 30 members ranging in skill from white to black belts, and 20 percent of the members are women, according to Park. Although tae kwon do is not a university sport, the club has been recognized by NIU’s Student Association and competes with other clubs instead of other schools.

Park’s club is one of several tae kwon do clubs on campus, but it is the only one recognized by the World Tae Kwon Do Federation (WTF). The WTF is the largest tae kwon do organization in the world. Individuals who want to participate in the Olympics must be a black belt and recognized by the WTF. Karmenzind said, “You can’t just get a black belt from Chuck’s Tae Kwon Do.”

The WTF accepts clubs based on the way the class is taught. Park teaches his class both the mental and physical aspects of tae kwon do. He said he emphasizes discipline because “self-control is very important in training.”

According to Park, tae kwon do is used for self defense. Reeves said there is a certain creed followed which says tae kwon do is to be used for good causes, not bad.

Park finds tae kwon do to be a very intense and challenging sport as well as dynamic, while Karmenzind sees it as a beautiful and graceful art.

The club competes in three or four tournaments each semester and all levels of belts compete. There is also a senior citizens competition. Members compete in two categories, sparring and forms. Sparring is actual contact with an opponent of the same belt level and forms is an individual demonstration of specific movements.

Park readies his club members by sparring with them. He also uses several stretching exercises to help with flexibility for both form and sparring. He tries to put his class, especially the new members, at ease. Park tells them, “Don’t worry about looking stupid because you’re the only one who thinks so.”

This semester, Park said he will be having guest instructors to make the class more interesting, and “everyone’s welcome to come try it out.”

The club meets at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, and 7 p.m. Sundays in the Recreation Center.