Recognizing the universality and positive impact of sports, 11 Iraqi taekwondo students and two coaches traveled to Washington to take to the mats and interact with their American counterparts last month. For 10 days, these taekwondo students, not only fine-tuned their discipline and teamwork skills through this martial art -- they also got a first-hand glimpse at how taekwondo can bring cultures together.
The group of students exemplified that taekwondo is a tool not only used for self-defense, but also a peaceful way to promote understanding and friendship among competitors. Despite language barriers, the martial arts students communicated through a handful of Korean commands used in traditional taekwondo training worldwide.
As a part of the U.S. Department of State's Sports Visitor Program, which aims to start a dialogue with students and athletes at the grassroots level, this international exchange program specifically focused on how Iraqi youth's participation in athletics translates into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom.
Teaming up with the Washington DC Divas and the Boston Militia, as well as the Maryland 2012 Summer Special Olympics, the Iraqi taekwondo students were able to engage with various teams in the Washington D.C. and surrounding areas. While this program brought Iraqis and Americans together through taekwondo, it also highlighted the encouraging role of sports in creating positive change in home communities.
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