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Frosty feet and cold kicks: Annual taekwondo club tradition doesn’t back down for Old Man Winter

Every year on January 1, the local Taekwondo club celebrates the New Year by practicing taekwondo in the snow, barefoot, at Rotary Park.

Master Jim Rennie said, “Some years we’ve had the snow soft and fluffy- sometimes that is tricky, because it melts quickly on your feet and then your feet are frozen. Some years the snow was ‘crusty,’ that’s also tricky because it cuts the sides of your feet as you break through the snow. So somewhere in between is just the right amount. We’ve done it in minus thirty Celsius, just one to two-minute workouts. We’re able to do the work out a lot longer when the weather is above zero, sometimes as long as 10 minutes. A lot of children take part but we ensure they wear boots to protect their little feet. For the adults, we let them be as wild as they wish. It’s a good way to start the year."

Rennie says the tradition began 30 years ago on New Year’s when he saw a video depicting the ‘polar bear dip’ and thought it was great. "We decided a year after that we would break in the New Year by practicing taekwondo barefoot in the snow.”

According to Rennie, Taekwondo is a Korean marital art that combines historical techniques with modern western teaching skills to build up young and old people with better bodies and stronger minds. Whitecourt Taekwondo started in 1979. Over a course of 37 years Whitecourt’s club has produced over 150 black belts. Rennie is one of four masters in Whitecourt and is part of the team that leads the Taekwondo Alliance of Alberta. This consists of 25 taekwondo clubs across the province of Alberta. Currently there are 200 taekwondo students in Whitecourt.

“Some people may think joining a martial art is intimidating, but it’s not. It’s something we do together and we have a lot of fun doing it,” says Rennie. “People work at their own pace and the workout is as hard or as easy as you want. Practicing Taekwondo develops good self-control, public speaking skills and helps build confidence.” Classes start again in the New Year on Jan 10, 2017.

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