As an experienced financial professional, Heather Hughes, SunAmerica executive, leads a busy life. She is focused on providing high quality services, information, and leadership within the financial industry. But she also understands the need for balancing her professional and personal life. Through the years she has turned to tae kwon do as a source of achieving better physical and mental health. She has worked her way up to a black belt in this form of martial arts. Heather Hughes reaps the benefits that this ancient art form has to offer.
Tae Kwon Do is a very physical activity. The entire body is involved. Participants learn how to kick, block, strike, punch, break boards, and more. They must establish the proper forms and techniques in order to properly carry out each move. Heather Hughes notes that tae kwon do can improve a variety of skills including:
The muscles become toned and strengthened as participants continue to learn and practice. They gain more control over each action and movement. Balance and coordination improve as they focus on kicking and blocking while staying upright. They coordinate movements between their arms and legs to execute various techniques. It also helps people to improve their reflexes and reactions as they respond to incoming moves from opponents.
Practicing tae kwon do can lead to better focus, improved self-esteem, and higher levels of confidence. Participants must focus and concentrate on each action they perform and stay alert to what is going on around them. They learn to become self-disciplined as they work to improve their skills and abilities.
As participants see themselves improving and becoming more skilled, it can boost their self-esteem. They feel empowered and become more confident in their own abilities and power to succeed. As they reach each goal and earn new belts, they gain a sense of accomplishment and pride. Heather Hughes, SunAmerica executive, explains that, for children, it can equip them with the skills and mental focus necessary to resist peer pressure.
Tae kwon do establishes techniques that are beneficial in self-defense. Participants learn to become more aware of potentially threatening situations and how to protect themselves. They learn how to effectively execute moves to ward off attackers. Knowing that they have the ability to defend themselves can give people a sense of confidence and power. Practice makes blocking, sparring, punching, and kicking more natural reactions. They body is toned and prepared to react.
Tae kwon do is an activity that the entire family can participate in, notes Heather Hughes. People of all ages can learn the skills and techniques and improve their physical and mental health. For families, it is a great way to bond. It promotes strong values such as:
Participants encourage each other to achieve their goals and support one another along the way. Parents can become even more positive role models for their children, and it allows them to share in an activity together. Everyone grows and improves.
Heather Hughes, SunAmerica Regional VP, Outlines Tae Kwon Do Basics
“Tae kwon do is an activity that people of all ages can participate in,” says Heather Hughes. “Everyone learns at their own pace and on their own level. Some people start off when they are children, while others take it up as adults. One way of monitoring progress is through the earning of different colored belts. Each belt represents a certain level of achievement and the mastery of specific skills.”
The Belt Process
As participants learn and practice new skills, they prepare to take belt tests. This is where they must prove their proficiency and performance. As they rise through the ranks, the skills become more complex and difficult. There are nine different colored belts that they can earn, each one symbolizing something different.
The hands are very important in tae kwon do. They are used offensively for striking, and defensively for blocking. When striking, there are several different techniques used depending on the situation. They include knife-hands, back-fists, and ridge-hand strikes. Learning how to make each strike powerful and accurate can improve one’s defense. Adding in body movements such as twisting the hips can help to provide a stronger impact.
Blocking helps to protect the participant from their opponent. They learn to shield their head and body from kicks and punches. Having a quick reaction time and proper technique provides more protection. When both arms are used, it makes the block stronger. One becomes the blocking arm, and the other becomes the chambering arm. They give an action and a reaction to counter various moves.
Kicks utilize the strength of the legs. Posture and balance are important to execute each move properly, explains Heather Hughes, SunAmerica Regional VP. Some common kicks include:
- Front kick
- Push kick
- Back kick
- Side kick
- Axe kick
- Crescent kick
- Hook kick
Each one has its own benefits and uses depending on the situation. They can allow the person to disarm their opponent or throw them off balance. A well-executed kick can give a person an advantage over their opponent. It takes time and practice to master the various types.
There are several different stances that people can take while practicing tae kwon do. Their stance can provide them with stability and also add power to their moves. Common stances include the ready stance, horse riding stance, walking stance, front stance, and back stance. From these stances, participants can transition into a number of other moves.
“Tae kwon do gives both the body and the mind a workout,” says Heather Hughes. “You must always be thinking and planning, ready to execute your next move. The more you practice and the more skilled you become, the more fluid and natural the moves. It is a great way to strengthen the body and the mind and develop skills that are useful in many areas of life.” Heather Hughes, SunAmerica Regional VP, encourages people to check out this art form for improved physical and mental health, as well as self-defense.
Heather Hughes, SunAmerica Regional VP, is an experienced financial professional. She earned a bachelor of business administration with a major in finance and investments and a minor in psychology from Baruch College in New York. She is currently in the process of completing her Master of Business Administration at American University in Washington, D.C. Outside of her work in finance, Hughes holds a black belt in taekwondo and a private pilot’s license. She loves flying and is an avid risk taker.