July 18, 2019 | 81° F

Meet Rutgers Taekwondo team that performed at RUDM

Photo by Georgette Stillman |

In the early morning hours of 4 a.m., most Rutgers University Dance Marathon participants are exhausted. But the members of Rutgers Taekwondo, who left the stage filled with adrenaline, reenergized the crowd.

The Rutgers Taekwondo demo team, which began only two years ago, had its biggest performance to date during the first RUDM session.

“The demo team is basically a flashy, tricky version of TaeKwonDo,” said Griffin Poole, the team’s Public Relations Chair. “When we’re in Taekwondo doing what we do, no one sees it. When we come out to perform in front of people, we can entertain people and have a blast while doing it.”

The team shattered wooden boards and executed high kicks to the sound of crowd-pleasing songs such as “We Will Rock You” and “Gangnam Style.”

At last year’s Dance Marathon, the team tried to score a spot on the list of nights’ performers, but had no luck.

“We started two years ago, this demo team, and we were trying to perform at the 2015 Dance Marathon last year, but we didn’t get it,” said Hakseong Kim, the team’s coach and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

For the past year since, the team has practiced for two hours three times a week.

And the hard work paid off when Vice Captain Mark Jongsma was able to get the team on the roster.

“We weren’t ready yet, so we prepared,” Kim said.

While the audience was impressed by the members’ ability to break wooden boards, Jongsma said it is as much a mental ability as a physical one, similar to skydiving.

“A lot of it is really mental. It’s not hard to break, it’s just people can’t fathom hitting a board. We’re not wired that way,” Jongsma said.”We are confident enough with our training that we know we can break it.”

Poole, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, referred to the area in front of the stage as the “splash zone” — where bits of wood fly into the audience.

The team is also part of the Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference (ECTC),  a league that consists of different universities up and down the east coast who compete against each other. This year, the team has travelled to universities including Brown and MIT. Their next tournament is coming up in Vermont next week.

Spending six hours on a bus to these tournaments has brought the team closer together, said Vice Captain Dennis Cheng, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

“Last year at my first tournament, I didn’t know half the people going on the bus because it was my first year in the club,” Cheng said. “After that, I knew everyone. You get to know their stories and where they’re from.”

This article is part of our 2016 Rutgers University Dance Marathon coverage. Click here for a full list of stories.

Avalon Zoppo is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. She is the managing editor of The Daily Targum. Find her on Twitter @avalonzoppo.

Avalon Zoppo

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