Here are answers to some of the questions new students tend to ask about our school.
If you have a question that we didn’t address, please contact us via this form. We love to hear from people who are interested about our martial art, and we’ll get back to you soon.
If you live in western Massachusetts or southern Vermont, you should also feel free to stop by any of our classes at any of our locations to ask us in person. Come a few minutes before or after class, and one of our qualified instructors will be happy to talk to you.
Everyone. Students may begin martial arts classes at any fitness level. We discourage casual or “drop-in” visitors and 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 Tae Kwon Do costs anywhere from nothing (free) to $100/month, depending on where you study. This page shows our rates, which include significant monthly discounts for students who are members of the Northampton Athletic club.
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 Tae Kwon Do 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. That said, we are offer youth classes twice per week at our home dojang in Florence, Massachusetts. The preferred age range is 9-14, but in special cases we may be able to accept students who are slightly older or younger into the youth class.
The most important qualification for our youth classes is that students take their training seriously. We offer traditional martial arts training—which includes physical, mental, and cultural learning—and are not interested in providing babysitting or child care.
The short answer is: yes, it certainly will. Tae Kwon Do training is physically rigorous and provides a well-rounded approach to physical fitness. In particular, Ji Do Kwan’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 Tae Kwon Do training with cardiovascular and weight training, which results in a well-rounded and highly effective fitness regimen.
That said, Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do 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. Ji Do Kwan is a physically rigorous style of Tae Kwon Do, and this type of training is not for everyone. Some people with chronic injuries or disabilities find that Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do training helps them learn to more fully understand the limits of their physical condition. Some discover that they can not only practice Tae Kwon Do, 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 Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do 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 Tae Kwon Do “Sabumnim,” but we don’t require that. Many martial arts schools additionally ask students to address one another by Mr./Ms. YourLastName. 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.
River Valley Tae Kwon Do was founded at the Northampton Athletic Club in fall 1997, and for many years we taught exclusively at this gym. We have a long and positive relationship with this fitness club, which many consider to be the finest in the area.
People sometimes wonder if martial arts classes in a health club are less serious or less authentic than others. This skepticism is well-founded, as many “cardio-kickboxing” or other martial arts classes prioritize fitness and are not meant to be traditional martial arts. It’s usually easy to identify these classes, since they focus on hard work, heart rate, “working up a good sweat” and so forth but don’t emphasize rigorous technique or proper applications. Instructors who hang a bunch of heavy bags, give students a pair of bag gloves, and have them fire away for timed intervals and calisthenics may offer a fantastic workout but have little to do with martial arts training.
We offer Tae Kwon Do classes in the Ji Do Kwan style, and our techniques and training methods have not been modified to emphasize tournament competition, general fitness, social mingling, or other motives outside the scope of traditional martial arts training. We are not a Tae Bo, cardio-kickboxing, or other class where martial arts content has been diluted by an emphasis on physical conditioning. We offer no judgment on the value of such classes, only confidence in our own high standards for training and promotion. The owners of the clubs where we teach understand our goals and have never asked us to make concessions to make our class more popular or conventional. We are in all ways grateful that they are such supportive and gracious hosts.
For the foreseeable future, we will continue to offer classes at both our own home dojang in Florence, Massachusetts and at the Northampton Athletic Club. This lets our students choose a way of training that best fits their priorities, location, and budget. Wherever we teach, our curriculum and values are the same: to teach a serious and authentic martial art for everyone willing to train with us.