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Here are answers to questions new students tend to ask about our school.

If you have more questions, feel free to stop by any of our classes at our dojang in the Florence neighborhood of Northampton, Massachusetts to ask us in person.

Come a few minutes before or after class, and an instructor will be happy to talk to you. If you arrive while class is in session, we welcome you to watch quietly, but please don’t interrupt our instructors or students during training.

If you have a question we don’t address below, use this form to ask. We love to hear from people interested about our martial art, and we’ll get back to you soon.

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Everyone. Students may begin martial arts classes at any fitness level. We require a significant commitment to the class after the first month of training. All serious students receive personal attention from the instructors, and those who are most engaged with the school usually receive the most thorough instruction. The more of yourself that you give to your training and to the school, the more we offer you.

Training at River Valley Taekwondo cost$64-100/month, depending on whether you’re eligible for a student discount, how many times per week you train, and so forth. This page shows our rates.

There are no fees for participation in rank tests or for promotion until the black belt level. Upon promotion to First Dan, there is a nominal fee for certification through the Kukkiwon—the World Taekwondo Federation headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. Uniforms and training gear are available through the school at wholesale prices, plus a small markup to cover shipping and sales tax.

Our school’s focus is on martial arts classes for adults. We prefer to teach students age 14+ but in special cases we may accept students who are slightly younger if a parent is present and if they are prepared to function and train as adults.

The short answer is: yes, it certainly will. Taekwondo training is physically rigorous and provides a well-rounded approach to physical fitness. In particular, Jidokwan’s deep stances and explosive motions help cultivate strength, speed, endurance, and body awareness. Since some of our classes are based in an athletic club, many of our students have access to high quality cardiovascular or weight training to complement their martial arts study. In addition, stretching exercises performed at the beginning of every class improve most people’s flexibility—an often-overlooked but crucial component of overall physical fitness. Improved self-confidence and self-discipline often help students maintain the fitness goals they achieve through sustained study, rather than slipping back into bad lifestyle habits. Advanced students often supplement their Taekwondo training with cardiovascular and weight training, which results in a well-rounded and highly effective fitness regimen.

That said, Taekwondo study is not necessarily the best course for those motivated purely by fitness or weight loss concerns. We support those pursuits, but other activities like running, swimming, and attention to proper nutrition may be more efficient ways of achieving those ends than training in any martial art style. We can’t do the work for you and our priorities are not in functioning as a “boot camp” to motivate people who are reluctant or unable to commit to a program of regular training. Those who are bored or inconsistent in following those kinds of activities may also be bored and inconsistent in Taekwondo class. Weight loss and fitness are often a happy result of training but should not be the primary reason for it.

Safety is one of the highest priorities of our school, and we’ve had very few injuries due to sparring, breaking boards and bricks, or any of the activities that look dangerous. Our school introduces students to sparring only after several months of training, when basic techniques are usually competent enough to be safely controlled. We delay contact sparring until students have reached an advanced level, both so their techniques will be refined, and so they won’t develop bad habits out of fear of being injured while sparring. We don’t tolerate aggressive or disruptive students, and we take care to ask students only to perform actions within the capabilities of their training.

Nevertheless, we can’t guarantee that any particular individual won’t be hurt during their Taekwondo training. We can, in fact, guarantee that virtually everyone who walks through our door will experience soreness or other kinds of discomfort over the course of their training. We routinely use muscles that are rarely used in other activities, and most beginners will have blisters as a result of performing vigorous exercise with bare hands and feet. It is almost impossible to train for a long time without feeling some minor aches and pains, much like athletes, construction workers, ballet dancers, or anyone else who regularly performs demanding physical feats. Although sparring and breaking contain an element of risk by their very nature, most of the injuries that occur through Taekwondo training are the result of the stress of exploring the physical limits of one’s own body.

We expect students to develop their full potential through training, whatever that potential may be. Jidokwan is a physically rigorous style of Taekwondo, and this type of training is not for everyone. Some people with chronic injuries or disabilities find that Taekwondo aggravates their condition and may be better off following another martial art style, or another physical activity altogether. However, others find that the deep knowledge of their body—and its connection to the mind and spirit—that they gain through Taekwondo training helps them learn to more fully understand the limits of their physical condition. Some discover that they can not only practice Taekwondo, but that they can extend their ability to use their bodies more effectively in a whole range of other activities. If you have a chronic knee injury, say, or a bad back, it is impossible to tell if Taekwondo will help or hurt you without finding out through direct experience.

All of our students wear uniforms to train, and if you join our school, you will be expected to order one. You may be familiar with the Japanese term “Gi” (which is a contraction of the proper term, “Keikogi”). The Korean term for this outfit is dobok.

Students who purchase a three-month introductory membership receive a free dobok, but if you’re just trying our school to see if you like it, you won’t be expected to purchase a uniform for a few weeks. The last thing we want to do is force people to buy a set of special clothes that will hang in their closets forever if they decide Taekwondo practice is not for them.

Once a student commits to ongoing training, it’s important to wear a uniform for several reasons. One of these is to make each of us the same (think of what the word “uniform” means!) so for the time we’re working out in the dojang, our minds are focused on the task at hand, and not on matters of fashion, status, and personal identity. Those can all be meaningful off the training floor, but it’s useful to have a time and space where they can be set aside while we dedicate ourselves to other pursuits.

You may have heard the word Sensei, the Japanese honorific for a teacher, or Sifu, the Chinese equivalent. Since Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, we use the term Sabumnim, which is used for instructors, generally those who hold the rank of Sam Dan (third degree black belt) or higher.

It’s okay to call your instructor at River Valley Taekwondo “Sabumnim,” but we don’t require that. Many martial arts schools additionally ask students to address one another by Mr./Ms. or Sir/Ma’am. This may apply just for instructors, or in some schools, it may be used for everybody on the training floor. We don’t do that either.

Although we support the respect and formality those practices encourage, students and teachers alike call one another by their first names while on the training floor. It’s important to respect one another and the relative ranks of junior/senior students, we just cultivate that respect in a different way. The atmosphere in our school is no less structured, but using names this way makes for more efficient, frictionless training. We invite all members of our school to share their pronouns when introducing themselves to one another.

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