Born to Do, Tang Soo Do that is
During the first weekend of spring break, Aaron Kaye ’11 led a farewell of sorts in a sport where history colors your every move. While competing at the New England Championship for the World Tang Soo Do Association—the organization devoted to this ancient Korean form of martial arts—Kaye and three other students broke and sparred their way to some of the top positions in New England. And yet, as the senior’s Colby career with the sport comes to a close, he’s already looking towards the future—with some help from the past.
“They say some people find Tang Soo Do,” said Kaye, “but I was really born into it.” Indeed, Kaye’s father, Michael, ran two schools while his son was growing up, and Aaron would spend every afternoon watching others train, spar and perfect their forms. “And as a kid I absolutely hated it, then once I started training with the adults, at around age 13, I fell in love with it,” said Kaye.
But that’s not the only part of history tied into Kaye’s skills. As a first year, he started the Colby Tang Soo Do club over JanPlan after practicing to test for his second-degree black belt in the fall of 2007. He’s now one of the youngest delegates to the World Tang Soo Do association, which started in the US in 1968. He’s also been to India twice for JanPlan, teaching kids Tang Soo Do forms his first year and returning to help start a student program in Kalimpong. “That was a transformative experience, said Kaye. “I had to think on the spot, use everything I’d learned from teaching.” Kaye recently heard from the instructor in Kalimpong about the program’s popularity—a man he initially befriended by essentially trading off similar martial arts forms. “You know someone 300 years back; it’s coming from the same person,” said Kaye.
Hence the intersections within a sport where winning is secondary. Of course, at the New England Championships, the Colby students did well—Terrence Tan ’14 placed first in forms, breaking and sparring; Miia-Liisa Termonen ’14 placed second in sparring; and Irina Cazan ’11 placed third in sparring and second in forms—but the contest is more an exercise in fulfillment. “The main purpose of Tang Soo Do isn’t competition,” said Kaye, “it’s a lot more about brotherhood.” Indeed, Kaye sparred Lerio Cunha from the Tang Soo Do-strong nation of Mozambique in the semifinal match of the 2010 World Championships in Greensborough, South Carolina, and after the match—which was close—Cunha and his coach told the then Colby junior that he could come train with them in Mozambique, coinciding with the African World Tang Soo Do Championships in December.
Kaye also plans to travel to the upcoming German International Competition with his good friend from home who currently studies at Penn State. “My guess is it will be bigger than tournaments here, I’ll just make sure I’m prepared,” said Kaye, noting that the Tang Soo Do curriculum, 900 years in the making, includes categories—balance, technique, turning, and focus—that are as much mental as they are physical. “The difference is in preparation,” he said. “If you work harder than everyone else and you have the mentality, you can win. You need to picture the exact environment you’re going to be in. If you think about it when you’re there, you can’t be in the moment.”
So, for a Colby senior whose career has featured 13 competitions, 36 events and 28 placements in the top three, this moment’s end is, in a sense, just another beginning, and one of—like in India—education.
“Traveling would be to go, to participate and to learn,” said Kaye.