Jacob Cho brings the technique and discipline of taekwondo’s founding fathers to his academy.
Section by Bria Balliet
Jacob Cho, owner of Cho’s Academy on South Coast Highway, didn’t fall into taekwondo by accident—the Korean martial art is in his blood. His father, Grandmaster Hee Il Cho, was one of the highest ranking students of the late General Choi Hong Hi, who is widely considered to be the father of modern taekwondo.
After dedicating himself to his craft, Jacob made it his mission to pass on the values to new generations. “Taekwondo is much more than a sport. … There is an overall promotion of integrity,” he says. “I believe the more we practice these habits and surround ourselves with like-minded people within the academy, the more inclined we are to act this way in our everyday lives.”
Here, he shares the benefits of his art and how new practitioners can become masters.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What about the sport made you want to pursue it as your career?
Jacob Cho: My practice as a child was very difficult. It was strict, physically demanding and sparring was rough at times. Now that I’m older and have experienced life, I see more clearly what my father/teacher was doing for me. … While I grow as a person, so does my appreciation for the martial arts. I continue to practice and teach for good health because it makes me a better person and allows me to impact others in a positive way.
LBM: What separates taekwondo from other martial arts styles?
JC: Taekwondo is popularly known for its variety of kicks, execution of speed and development of power demonstrated by way of breaking wood or cement blocks with kicks and punches. There’s also an important emphasis placed on strengthening the mind and character development. … The sport aspect is a component of the broader martial art. Sport practitioners develop a relatively limited set of techniques and focus primarily on athletic performance.
LBM: What are the biggest benefits?
JC: Physically, practitioners can expect to maintain an overall fit body. Taekwondo develops strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance, motor skills and self-defense skills. Mentally, practitioners can expect to experience many benefits, such as increased levels of confidence, patience, mental toughness, focus, calming of the mind and humbling of the ego. Taekwondo offers us a vehicle to be more closely connected with our inner selves.
LBM: Many people assume beginner classes are for kids—is it ever too late to start?
JC: It’s absolutely never too late to start. I currently have adults beginning on a regular basis. Age shouldn’t be a deterrent, nor should one’s current fitness level.
LBM: What kinds of supplemental workouts do you recommend to complement training?
JC: It depends on the overall goal. I’ve found yoga to be a great complement to martial arts, sports and life in general. Jujitsu is also a great complement to taekwondo. … Diet is [also] self-defense and fitness on the most basic of levels.
LBM: What can a newcomer expect in his or her first class?
JC: Newcomers can expect to be greeted warmly, to be treated with respect and to experience classes taught by passionate and knowledgeable teachers. Everyone’s first class is always free.
Martial Arts Musts
Push your body to its limits with the help of essential top products.
In a contact sport such as taekwondo, safety is of utmost importance. The following gear will help keep students of all levels protected and primed for their next sparring match.
Keep your teeth intact with the Shock Doctor Gel Nano Flavor Fusion Mouthguard, $25, at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Newport Beach. (949-640-1107; dickssportinggoods.com)
The Defense Soap Defense Body Wipes protect against ringworm, staphylococcus bacteria and more, $11, at Cho’s Academy, Laguna Beach. (949-281-7517; chosacademy.com)
The Manduka Black Mat Pro is your friend for post-class stretching, $100, at Ritual Yoga Arts, Laguna Beach. (949-715-7005; ritualyogaarts.com)
The long-lasting gel padding in Title Gel World Bag Gloves makes them safer for hands and sparring partners, starting at $78, at Cho’s Academy, Laguna Beach. (949-281-7517; chosacademy.com)
Partner up and practice striking with the Everlast Punch Mitts, $30, at Sports Authority, Irvine. (949-727-1821; sportsauthority.com)