WITH the New Year now here, a lot of people will be looking to lose the weight put on after too much turkey and Christmas pudding – this often gives people the idea of taking up a new sport.

Most people’s eyes are drawn to the more popular sports such as football, rugby, tennis and cricket, but for those looking to delve into something a little less mainstream, there are many different sports to try on your doorstep.

I took a look into a martial art that originated in Korea which is on offer across the region – taekwondo.

The Olympic sport offers a wide range of benefits to new starters, and according to Oswestry Taekwondo instructor Carl Rudolf, who spoke about how the sport became a big part of his life.

“I initially started the sport with a group of friends from school and picked up my black belt at the age of 10,” he said.

“From then onwards I was able to pick up my second and third dan belts and go on to set up my own class.

“It became a massive part of my life from then onwards.”

Carl urges people to take up the sport this year, saying it has something for everyone.

At classes in Oswestry, Malpas and Whitchurch, Carl welcomes taekwondo students aged from six to older than 25.

He said: “One of the best things about taekwondo is that it has something for everyone regardless of age.

“It’s mostly an individual sport, but you can compete as a team in tournaments too.

“The grading system keeps you motivated and makes you want to better yourself constantly.

“Fitness is one of the main benefits that taekwondo offers. It doesn’t just improve endurance, but also balance and flexibility.

“The social side of it means everyone who takes part will get some enjoyment out of it – and more than anything, it gives people something to do and learn.

“Aside from the sporting side of things, it’s a great way to socialise – like I said, I started with a group of friends, and along the way I have met so many new people through the sport aswell.

“I think more importantly, especially for younger participants, it teaches discipline.

“Each training session or competitive bout begins with participants bowing to one another – this is one of the many things that I believe teaches respect from a young age.

“In other sports, I don’t feel like there is as much emphasis on helping others out and bettering yourself as a person than there is in martial arts.”

The instructor spoke about how although the sport can seem aggressive to an outsider, it is much more about the skill involved rather than hurting your opponent when sparring.

He added: “The real skill taught with martial arts isn’t to hurt someone, it’s to be able to kick as hard and fast as you can, without actually landing on anyone – the real skill is learning to control it.

“At lower grades, people can see black belts and others who have been doing the sport for a longer period of time, and find the way they strike quite intimidating, which is understandable. But it’s just something that takes time and dedication to learn.

“Self-defence is a big part of taekwondo. It is another benefit that the sport offers.

“No taekwondo instructor is able to wave a magic wand that ensures everyone who trains can protect themselves in any situation, but the idea is to give people the tools they need and the awareness of how to get out of a bad situation should they need to – hopefully they will never need to use them, but it’s good to have them.”