Taekwondo welcomes over-60s! What started in Italy as a project to show the benefits of physical activity for seniors is now trying to go international. “Intergenerational Taekwondo: the sport of grandparents and grandchildrenis a very successful project, organised by FITA, the Italian Taekwondo Federation. Its results were so positive that other national Taekwondo Federations showed interest in implementing the adapted training to seniors in their countries.

Having already partnered with EPSI on multiple international projects, FITA experts decided to collaborate again with the European Platform for Sport Innovation to replicate their success in other European countries. A concept note has been presented by FITA on the EPSI MoZ platform. During 2024, this project idea will be further developed to be submitted at a later stage to the EU funding calls. 

Rto Kick Off meeting

A manual and a training for specific needs

To adapt the traditional taekwondo teachings to the needs and capabilities of seniors, coaches involved in the project received specific training, held by the Italian Taekwondo Federation and by the six universities that partnered in the project. These universities conducted more extensive tests on participants, with the goal of individuating the best practices and create a training manual, to be shared internationally. This manual will allow to share taekwondo more broadly, answering the demand for senior adapted trainings, which Italy showed being silenty but strongly present. 

Taekwondo has a social and health impact 

Benefits observed during the original project range from cognitive function to physical abilities, to social interactivity. Senior athletes noticed a better range of movement and created meaningful relationships within their training groups. Female participants were especially invested in creating friendships, making the training sessions into lively social gatherings. Some of the athletes stated that such training was effective in combating loneliness, which can be quite common among seniors and has damaging effects on physical and mental health. 

The intergenerational aspect

One of the main aspects of the project was supposed to be its intergenerational element. Indeed about 30% of participants got involved thanks to their grandchildren, who learned about it in taekwondo class. However, thanks to word-of-mouth, most of the senior participant got involved independently from their grandchildren. To reflect the marginal role the intergenerational factor had in Italy, the European project will be mostly focused on senior participation, and less on getting both grandparents and grandkids involved. 

The widespread program ended up involving 1600 athletes and 48 sports clubs, numbers that keep growing as the project continues into 2024. Participants were mostly in the age range 60-68, while the oldest participant was 94 years old. Even though the initial project was studied for over-65s, it was opened to over-60s, due to the overwhelming demand from that particular age group.  

Participants included also nursing home residents, who even took part in the yellow belt exam, where participants had to break polystyrene blocks, instead of the classic wood ones. The exam concluded with the traditional belt handover and diploma ceremony. 

FITA, with EPSI’s support, is looking to replicate this success, increasing Taekwondo awareness and spreading the knowledge on senior adapted training, showing on an international level the extensive benefits for elderly citizens.