Taekwon-Do Boosts Students’ Confidence and Resiliency in a New Class at Wellesley

May 17, 2018
Students practice taekwon-do with their instructor.

Taekwon-do is a form of Korean martial arts geared toward self-defense, but students enrolled in PE163 Taekwon-Do, taught by Olga Shurchkov ’01, associate professor of economics, also learned about the sport’s psychological benefits.

Wellesley offered the course for the first time this spring. Shurchkov, who developed an interest in taekwon-do in high school, earned a black belt, and become an instructor, knew from personal experience how the sport could help Wellesley students.

“For me, taekwon-do was the foundation upon which I built my confidence at a time of hardship, self-doubt, and stress in my life,” she said. “This is something I wanted to bring to Wellesley students, more so now than ever, observing as a faculty member that mental health concerns are on the rise among the students.”

The response to the course has been very favorable, Shurchkov said. She plans to teach it again in the fall.

Eliza McNair ’18 said the class was her first exposure to taekwon-do.

“The class was really helpful for developing self-confidence, but also for self-control and focus,” she said. “It’s almost relaxing, taking a break from school and thinking only about taekwon-do.”

Mariela Dyer ’20 said among the lessons she learned in the course was one of taekwon-do’s five core principles: indomitable spirit. “At Wellesley, there are too many days where everything feels too difficult and burdensome, but taking time to remind myself that I have an indomitable spirit has shaped me into a stronger person,” she said. “I have developed perseverance and confidence in my own strength. Mainly, I have found strength within myself that sometimes gets lost in the daily hustle.”

Connie Bauman, professor of the practice in the Department of Physical Education Recreation and Athletics (PERA), said the class is a result of PERA’s efforts to develop teaching collaborations with other departments on campus. Another such partnership also resulted in the development of a class with a mental health focus: PE192 Mindfulness Survival Tools: Stillness, Motion, and Focus, taught by John Bailes, the Buddhist chaplain in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

“Both of these classes were immensely popular with our students,” Bauman said.