By Mack Olmsted, Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
Manhattan College’s taekwondo program returned this fall for its fourteenth year, led by associate professor of mechanical engineering, John Leylegian, Ph.D. Leylegian has been training for almost 32 years in taekwondo and is a sixth-degree black belt. He typically works with the class twice a week, as well as occasionally on the weekend.
“The instructor is legit,” freshman student Alexander Paz said. “He knows what he’s doing. He will teach you how to defend yourself and teach you how to fight.”
Over the years, hundreds of students have participated and have gone through Leylegian’s taekwondo training. Around 30 students have gone up in rank from promotions, and six have made brown belt.
This year, a new batch of students joined the taekwondo program in hopes of learning some defensive techniques in case they ever need to protect themselves.
“I think [the class] is really good,” freshman Ashley Gonzalez said. “I like how the class teaches some fighting. If I ever need to defend myself, I have lessons from this class.”
While there are physical benefits to the taekwondo program, Leylegian mentions that the workout and exercises you do in the class could potentially improve the mental health of students and faculty.
“It’s a physical activity, a social activity and it can potentially be a way to help alleviate stress,” Leylegian said. “It’s also just a good way to sort of keep your mind centered. I find that after a good workout, I tend to be in a lot better mood.”
Leylegian’s workout begins with stretching and basic exercises, focusing on individual techniques to help look at participants’ strengths and weaknesses. The workout consists of punches, kicks and blocks and eventually, students and faculty can try different pre-choreographed moves that range from 20 to 60 moves in one form. The moves that make up a form are a combination of techniques and skills that class members work on whether it would be strikes, kicks or stances. As students progress, they are taught more and more difficult forms.
The workout class also consists of sparring practice, which is partner workouts. Some of the sparring consists of unrehearsed freestyle. Leylegian’s class also has a three-step sparring which is rehearsed and choreographed. The sparring practice involves no contact non-offensive techniques that teach students to defend themselves in situations where they would be attacked without threatening others.
“You do work up a sweat,” Paz said. “I came here to learn taekwondo and that’s what I’m learning. I’m learning how to kick, and how to punch out a block. It’s a new experience.”
No prior training is required, if students are interested in participating in the taekwondo program. Students and faculty can find the classes in the mini gym of Alumni Hall at 6 pm on Tuesdays and 5 pm on Wednesdays.
“Beginners are always welcome,” Leylegian said. “It’s open to anybody that’s part of the college community, whether it’s students or employees, we are here.”
More information is on the program’s Instagram page, @mc_taekwondo or email email@example.com.