Taekwondo: Son and father earn their black belts together

Family members do, of course, spar from time to time. But not as intentionally and with as much enjoyment as 10-year-old Logan Barber and his father, Bruce.

Bruce & Logan Barber (Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe)

Family members do, of course, spar from time to time. But not as intentionally and with as much enjoyment as 10-year-old Logan Barber and his father, Bruce.
For the past couple years, Logan and Bruce have taken Taekwondo classes through the martial arts program offered weekly at Max 493 in Worthington, progressing through the ranks and recently earning black belt status together.
Taking Taekwondo was Logan’s idea initially.
“I watched people on TV and thought it might be cool to do something like that,” said Logan, a fifth-grader at St. Mary’s School in Worthington.
“So we went in and checked it out,” continued Bruce, who works at the Veterinary Medical Center in Worthington. “They offered a parent and child class. I had taken it way back in the ’80s, so this was a great opportunity to do it with Logan.”
Bruce was able to recall some of the basics from his own youthful endeavors, but for the most part he was just as much of a beginner as Logan. And the more they learned together, the more dedicated they got, even taking summer classes in Sioux Falls, S.D., when the local program was on a hiatus.
According to the American Taekwondo Association, Taekwondo is a non-aggressive system of self-defense that began more than 1,000 years ago. The word itself is made up of three Chinese/Korean words: Tae, meaning to kick or jump; Kwon, meaning fist or hand; and Do, which means “the way.” Besides kicks, Taekwondo also emphasizes breaking power, such as splitting wood and bricks using only the bare hands and feet, and also focuses on sparring and learning formal patterns of movement called forms.
Taekwondo’s belts indicate a practitioner’s level of competence, with the progression of colors also reflecting that person’s inner journey. In order to achieve the next rank, a student must demonstrate proficiency in their current belt’s techniques, including the basic moves, sparring and forms.
A beginner starts with the white belt, and moves through orange, yellow, camouflage, green, purple, blue, brown, red and red/black belts before achieving a black belt in Taekwondo. At the black belt level, there are degrees that can be achieved, based on proficiency and ultimately years of experience.
“The progression from white to black was a great journey, but now we’re really only halfway on that journey,” said Bruce. “Now we’re really getting into some fun stuff.”
One of the main instructors in the Worthington program is Scott Peterson, pastor at Solid Rock Assembly, a fifth-degree black belt who has taught the martial art for 19 years.
“It does teach excellent self-defense, the physical aspect of endurance, and it’s a great upper body and lower body workout,” explained Peterson. “That’s what a lot of people think about martial arts. But one of the things we stress is the life skills - the courtesy, the honor, the self-control, the discipline. Normally during each session, which is eight weeks, we will take one of the life skills and highlight that. They get a life skills sheet - maybe it’s on integrity - about putting it into practice on a daily basis.
“That’s the greatest thing, to see them grow up, to carry those life skills with them - the respect they show for parents, teachers, others they come into contact with,” added Peterson about the younger students’ development. “Hopefully it helps them later on when they have a job.”
Peterson enjoys watching parents and children go through the program together, encouraging and pushing each other along the way.
“It’s especially helpful at home with practicing, to work on their technique,” Peterson said. “And when one is feeling like they’re not sure if they want to continue with this, the other once can encourage them as well.”
That has certainly been the case for the Barbers, who have created a mini dojo - a martial arts training area - in their home. They try to practice there once or twice a week.
“One thing nice about Taekwondo is the individuality,” stressed Peterson. “A person can progress at their own rate. They are tested upon their own skill and ability, not necessarily compared to everyone else. You see what a student is able to accomplish, their physical abilities, what they’re able to do. We want to see they are doing their best, and as you progress, there is more that is expected.”
For Logan, personal challenges have been sparring and board breaks, but he always perseveres until he gets them.
“You have to get your stances right,” he said, “to make sure you break it right.”
Bruce has achieved a great deal of flexibility through Taekwondo, but for him, the forms have been the toughest part.
But the biggest gain from the Taekwondo experience, according to Bruce, has been quality time spent with his son. Logan is involved in other sports, but Taekwondo allows them to accomplish something together and on the same level.
“In other sports, I’m a spectator,” said Bruce. “On days I don’t want to practice, Logan will say, ‘C’mon, Dad, let’s do this.’ It’s rare to be able to do something like that with your kid, to be allowed to participate and grow together. This was something different.
“And that YOU wanted to do it was even more fun,” said Bruce to Logan. “I’m treasuring every moment.”
Logan and Bruce’s enthusiasm for Taekwondo has been contagious in their family. Mom Sarah and Logan’s younger brother, Luke, 5, are now taking classes together and recently moved up to the orange belt. Sister Grace, 8, is the lone abstainer.

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