At the end of most classes in Olympic Taekowndo Academy in Cheshire, Master Jonguk Jang asks his students to face their parents, bow and say "thank you" in Korean.
It is a sign of respect, which for Jang is just as much a part of the martial arts as the kicks, blocks and punches he teaches them in practice.
During a recent beginner’s class, he took a moment to show two young students how to shake hands and properly introduce themselves to each other after they were paired up during an exercise.
He reminded the girls to use their manners, delivering the message with a touch of humor by demonstrating the wrong way to make a good first impression (by mumbling and avoiding eye contact).
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"I tell my students every day about respect, attitude and behavior," said Jang, a fifth-degree black belt and Taekwondo champion in his native Korea. "It’s the most important thing."
Jang and his wife, Hyun Jung An, opened Olympic Taekwondo in June at the site of the former Toyz toy store in the Watch Factory Shoppes. Since then, they have enrolled more than 100 students ranging in age from preschool to adults.
The studio is part of the Olympic Taekwondo Academy organization started in 2009 by Grandmaster Kiye Cho, which also has locations in Farmington, Rocky Hill and New Milford.
Five years ago, Jang had run another Taekwondo studio in the Cheshire area with Cho until it closed and Jang returned to Korea to get married.
"I really missed Cheshire and I really missed my students, so I came back to Connecticut last year," he said.
Jang and his wife are originally from South Korea and studied Taekwondo from an early age, according to the Olympic Taekwondo Academy website. Jang received a bachelor’s degree in physical education with a major in Taekwondo from Kung-Hee University in South Korea.
In addition to the black belt, he holds a Master Instructor certification from Kulddwon, the headquarters of the World Taekwondo Federatio.
The studio offers beginner and advanced classes as well as classes for students with special needs.
Sam Vetto, a friend and former student, said both of his children have studied under Jang and are now second-degree black belts. He said Taekwondo has improved their ability to focus and developed their self-confidence. He said he also likes that it exposes them to Korean culture.
"Students don’t have to spar here. That’s not required," he said. "It really is about focus and respect."
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