“Is that hallway big or small?” a voice demands at the front of the room from a man in a Taekwondo uniform.
“Small!” a few dozen younger voices respond.
Mr. Seay references a clipboard, checking off names as he scans the small faces in the room.
“Do we run in it – yes or no?”
“Ha-Na!” he shouts.
His bare feet pad across the spongey floor.
He nudges a student’s feet farther apart in her set position.
In between counts he reminds another student, “Toes up.”
“Neht,” he finishes. Then the class joins him in counting aloud in Korean again, from one to four, as they transition from pose to pose in rows of six. A mom comes in for a uniform. In quite a softer tone, he tells her to check if it works for her son, to let him know if not, and he will provide a bigger size. She thanks him, smiling, and slips out.
The students are doing butterflies on the floor now. Mr. Seay directs them:
“And stop. Take a deep breath in.”
Everyone is silent. Except, of course, when choruses of “yes sir” are heard in response to the instructor’s questions. Megan Ryle, one of the moms sitting at the back of the room, says she loves Mr. Seay.
Taekwondo takes students From "Off the Walls" to Black Belt
Megan’s son Ian first started as a white belt when he was six years old, five years ago. There were only a handful of other students in his beginner class. Now there are about thirty in the intermediate class which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Fishers YMCA.
The program is made possible through a partnership with North Indy Taekwondo
, owned by Grandmaster Duncan Williams. North Indy Taekwondo has operated out of the Fishers YMCA since the Y opened in 2002. Through a partnership with the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, the business holds the martial art program at four other centers (Arthur Jordan, OrthoIndy Foundation, Arthur Baxter, and Hendricks Regional Health YMCAs). Registration is through the Y centers, but all instruction comes from Grandmaster Williams’ staff. Mr. Seay was trained by Grandmaster Williams from the age of five.
Megan shares that Mr. Seay has trained both Ian and his younger brother, Alek (age nine), from white belt to recommended black belt. Her youngest son Zeke started about a year ago, too, when he was six. Zeke is now a blue belt.
The students continue their warm ups as Megan talks. In the background Mr. Seay instructs:
"Legs together, Lily!”
Megan smiles and comments that he works very well with the kids.
“He is really good at helping me as a parent teach my kids respect. When Ian first started we didn’t have his ADHD diagnosis. So, he was just off the walls, bouncing around, had a hard time paying attention.”
When Megan talked to Mr. Seay about it, he assured her that Ian was “okay,” and that he had come leaps and bounds from where he first started. Megan confirms that he really has grown so much, being a part of this. She knows that one of Ian’s favorite parts now, as a black belt, is being able to help some of the younger kids. This wasn’t always the case, however.
Stepping It Up
Now, in the classroom the students are up on their feet, traversing the room in rows and columns, stop-motion style, as they command their bodies into memorized forms. “Next row, go!” Mr. Seay shouts as little feet sweep the air with high kicks. “Outside in, go!” … “High, William!” … “Get back in the middle.”
“I really, really appreciate that Mr. Seay does not let them get away with stuff,” Megan continues.
She remembers how last summer all three of the kids wanted to do soccer. They couldn’t participate in both because the programs were on the same night. Megan explains how they decided to take a break from Taekwondo at that time. She admits that coming back to Taekwondo from soccer was a little rough. Mr. Seay did talk to them after class.
“Guys,” he told the boys, “this was not okay. We gotta step it up.’”
Another mom, Nisreem Hamarshah, appreciates that Mr. Seay shares a lot of their family’s values.
“First of all, he doesn’t coddle the kids, but he does encourage them. We can’t find that in a lot of people these days. He cares about technique, intrinsic motivation.”
She noticed Mr. Seay instilling that intrinsic motivation from the beginning. And that same respect goes both ways: it’s respect that she demands from her kids.
“But he does it in a way that’s not mean,” Megan adds. “He talks about how they’re setting an example for the other students.”
To Be Continued...
Want to learn about the belt hierarchy, why Nisreem’s son doesn’t care about his opponent’s level, and just how the cartoon Encanto
is connected to the class? Check back next week for Part Two of this story to hear more about Taekwondo and the friendships grown through the program.
To support families in activities like Taekwondo, visit https://indymca.org/ways-to-give/