Not long ago, while teaching materials study in his applied engineering class at Staples High School, instructor Humphrey Wong tried to break a board.
Arjun Dhindsa told Dr. Wong the board was curved the wrong way.
If students had been allowed to take a whack, Arjun would have stepped right up. He’d have given an impressive demonstration.
This summer, the Staples junior won a gold medal at the national tae kwan do black belt championship in San Jose. He shattered 30 boards in 2 minutes, earning the most points for style, accuracy and difficulty of breaks.
Arjun’s road to the board-breaking title began in 3rd grade, at Kings Highway Elementary School. A friend was taking classes at World Champion Tae Kwan Do, near the train station. Arjun thought that was pretty cool.
In the years since, he became a 2nd degree black belt (and is working on his 3rd).
Tae kwan do has changed his life, Arjun says. He’s learned to “respect everything,” which in turn has made him a better person.
“The core values are courtesy, respect, integrity, self-control and perseverance,” Arjun explains. “That drives me now.”
When he was younger, Arjun was targeted by bullies. Tae kwan do gave him confidence in who he was, and that he could stand up to anyone. However, that does not mean he busts up bullies as easily as he breaks boards.
His martial art should not be used against other people “unless absolutely necessary,” Arjun says. The point of the activity is “to make yourself better.”
Getting to nationals required 2 types of discipline: mental and physical. He trained constantly on technique, and developed his core, legs and arms. “If a normal, super-strong person tried this, it would be tough,” Arjun says in the same way you or I would talk about the ability to walk to the planet Zork.
The black belt competitor also prepared himself psychologically to break 4 boards — each an inch thick — at once.
“It’s important to visualize yourself doing it,” notes Arjun. “Otherwise it can be daunting and scary.”
In San Jose, Arjun broke boards with his palm, elbow, a punch and a triple front kick.
He knew if he “decimated” them, he’d have a good shot at the title.
The feeling after successfully breaking boards is “exhilarating.” The pain goes away soon. Arjun’s hand was swollen — he even went for X-rays — but it was fine.
Winning a gold medal at a national tae kwan do competition made Arjun proud. It also reinforced his desire to work even harder in the future. He wants to repeat as champion next year.
Not many Staples students know about Arjun’s U.S. title, though. “I’m not the type of person to talk about it,” he says.
Dr. Wong may not even know. After all, school rules did not allow his black belt pupil to show the class how to break boards like they were twigs.
Though that would have made for a very interesting science class demonstration indeed.