All Is Respect


“Everybody listen! There are three points of Taekwondo: one is respect, two is respect and three is respect.” Rowan Buchanan told these little tigers during the class. These kids are between 3 and half to six years old. The taekwondo suits are a little bit large for them. They all stand in the line with their dedicated faces and say “Yes, sir!”

The little tigers doing the stretch during the class on March 12, 2015.

Before each class, all the students show their respect to the flags, which are Korean and American. They put their hands on their chest and bow to it.

“Rowan came to my demonstration at the Ford Center.” Master Ra, the business founder of the Team Ra Martial Arts, said. “Later, I told him to come back and help me out. There were bunches of kids in the room and he was able to get their attention, make form a line and keep them busy. He is a good communicator. So I decided to train him as an instructor. No one can be an instructor without a black belt. But Rowan is the only person who becomes an instructor with a red belt.”

Rowan Buchanan and His Little Tigers

Rowan enjoys his time when he is together with these kids…

Rowan talks about the funny kids in his class.

Besides Rowan, Kirkland Harwell is the other instructor in the Team Ra Martial Arts. He is 16 years old, but it has already his ninth year taekwondo studies.

Kirkland got his black belt last December. “I was so excited about it. It needed a lot of practice. You need to know all the kicks, the Korean terminologies, and the most important thing to know is how to respect people.”

Kirkland and Rowan help the students wear the protections.

However, it was not a smooth process that Kirkland getting his black belt. “To be honest, I used to have trouble with school, had no manners to parents and teachers, and I had a short temper.” During the third year when Kirkland got his brown belt, Master Ru made him go back down to a white belt.

“Taekwondo is not only kicks and punches, but also teaches how to become a better person.” Master Ra said. “It teaches how to be more disciplined, respectful and inventive in finding ways of life.”

Master Ra explained that “If it was just based on kicks and punches, he would have never come back to white belt. Because he has some behavioral issues, he wasn’t respecting his mother. So I tried to make a statement to him. Just because you can do the kicks well doesn’t mean you can continue moving up.”

Master Ra thought the experience made Kirkland very upset and disappointed with himself. “But he knew we loved him. He is like a member of my family. That’s the reason that he kept training. ”

The taekwondo training also provides a platform for Master Ra to introduce Korean culture to students. Once, Master Ru told these kids they could cry for three times:

When you are born, when your parents pass away, and when you lose your country.

Rowan explains the three times cry.

Master Ra said, “These kids can grow up to be the president of the United States one day, or a very bad criminal. So it’s our job to help them understand that they can be the best that they can be.”

Master Ra talks about the philosophy.

Rebecca James, the mother of 6 year-old William David James and 7-year-old Paul James, whose sons have already studied taekwondo for almost 3 years, said, “They’ve learned a lot of self-confidence and the concentration of the both has improved. They were born with manners but they show more with taekwondo training. I think they think that they are stronger and can do more things because they study taekwondo. It’s a mental gain.”

The James brothers have built friendship with Andrew Stel, who has studied taekwondo for five years. Now he is a green belt. His mother Stacy said, “ His dad has been training for 10 to 11 years. So it’s a natural progression for our son to study. He was a little bit shy before he studied taekwondo, it built his confidence, and now he is out-spoken.”

Brad Garrett, a furniture home store owner, who has studied taekwondo for ten years, said, “My niece is learning taekwondo. She doesn’t listen to her parents, and always says ‘yeah’, ‘sure’, ‘whatever’ to them until they are mad at her. But when she puts on her uniform, she is always saying ‘Yes, madam!’ She know when she’s in the uniform, others require and expect her to be respectful.”

The students warm up during their class on March 12, 2015.

Taekwondo helped Kirkland out and taught him the right way to do things. “Yes, sir! Yes, madam!” become the sentences that Kirkland usually says…

Master Ra said, “It is tough for a high school boy like Kirkland to be here every day after class. He can go to parties, hang out with girls or do other things, but he comes every day. It’s very stressful.”

Taekwondo has already become a necessary part of Kirkland’s life. There was only one time that he wanted to quit when he was in a red belt. “I was so tired and wanted to go back home to sleep. But when I came back, it was so bad. I had hard time to do the kicks and I realized I left behind.” Since then, he hasn’t miss any of his classes. He said, “If you quit one thing, you will easily quit others”. That is what taekwondo teaches him.

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