COLUMBUS GROVE - A lifelong student of taekwondo since 1977 and a dedicated, respected teacher of the centuries-old Korean martial art since 1979, Sr. Master James P. Taylor isn't likely to change the name of his super-successful Taylor's Tae Kwon Do & Hapkido studio in Columbus Grove anytime soon.

Still, if he wanted to, the sixth degree black belt - who also holds a third degree in the Korean grappling art of hapkido, and is proficient in the Filipino stick-fighting discipline of kali - could very well add a cool, blue "H2O" to the rest of those alluring words that are stenciled neatly on the modest white sign outside his modest school located at 104 N. High St.
That's because as of Thursday, Sept. 12, Master Taylor will be packing up his arsenal of kicks, strikes, and throws, over 36 years of knowledge, and hopefully a good number of his 30 regular Grove students, and taking them to the water of the Putnam County YMCA. It's there he'll look to introduce them, the village of Ottawa, communities like Pandora and Leipsic, and a whole-new demographic of potential martial artists everywhere in between to the newest wave of martial arts, self-defense training, and health and fitness he simply likes to call H20 Tae Kwon Do.

"The benefit of this class, beyond the idea, of course, that one can get a great workout aerobically in the water, is that when we teach taekwondo in the pool, we're teaching the exact same techniques of self-defense we teach on land. Only it's much easier for students who might have balance issues, or people trying to come back from knee surgeries, or older and much younger folks," offers the 55-year-old native of Walbridge, Ohio, and owner of Taylor's Tae Kwon Do, Tumbling, & Dance in Woodville, Ohio.

Taylor goes on to explain that the impetus of H2O TKD came when he was down in Florida this past summer, visiting his mother, and practicing some of his favorite kicks, hand strikes, and patterns (sequences of moves, or hyeongs) while cooling off in her pool.

"Like for instance, when I look at the dynamics of my class this past summer (at the Woodville Pool, where the class debuted in July), I had students all the way from eight-year-olds, to people in their 20s and 40s, to 70-some-year-olds. And I think H2O TKD was a chance for them to meet new people, have fun doing it, and get involved in something new they might not have otherwise had the chance to," continues Master Taylor thoughtfully. "In H2O TKD, we do basic taekwondo kicks like groin kicks and front kicks up and down the length of the pool. For those with balance problems, we do them in place, while holding onto the side of the pool. We do a lot of our more-advanced hand basics, because we want to move a lot of water, and get that nice resistence training in."

"I demonstrate practical self-defense applications first on land, on one of my black belts, and then we hop back into the water and let the students try," he says. "H2O TKD is great cross-training for young athletes, to increase their skills, balance, and cardio-endurance. It's nice for improving things like posture and strength, and it's great low-impact exercise for those with arthritis, joint problems, and past injuries. It's a great ice-breaker for folks who have always been curious about the martial arts, but who at the same time maybe have cold feet about stepping into a traditional taekwondo class. And, it's a lot of fun."

Master Taylor's maiden H2O TKD session back up in Woodville this past July and August averaged right around 13-14 students per class, with workouts usually going for about an hour, and in about three to four feet of water.

As stated previously, the foundation of the class is built on basic taekwondo fundamentals, like groin kicks, front kicks, and side kicks (one rarely has to kick above the groin or knee if forced to defend him/herself on the street anyway); effective, to downright devestating self-defense techniques that anyone can master (ranging from proper hair pulling, to armbars and joint locks, to the amount of force one has to put into a kick to an attacker's knee to shatter it); and continuous growth in the areas of fitness, character, self-confidence, and friendship.

Though, if the able-bodied new student or experienced taekwondo practitioner alike has the desire to experiment with some of the art's more dynamic techniques off the diving board -like the flying side kick, the spinning heel kick, or any other number of dazzling tournament-style moves- they're more than welcome to do so, as is any H2O TKD student welcome to delve into deep-water training, for which buoyancy belts are generally supplied.

"I think the really cool part about H2O TKD is that it's opening up the martial arts to a whole-new scope of people we probably wouldn't have otherwise reached," interjects Master Taylor. "Because in some cases we're getting them into the pool, they're learning something new and loving it, their confidence is building, and they're getting curious about stepping foot into a traditional taekwondo studio after all. Plus, they're getting that great low-impact workout in! After one workout this past summer, I could really feel it through my pecs and shoulder blades. This class gives you a sense of accomplishment, like you're doing something good for your body. And the best part? You don't sweat while doing it! H2O TKD is just fun!"

Still, don't just take Master Taylor's word for it on why H2O TKD is worth the plunge.

"When (Master Taylor) first approached me about H2O TKD, my immediate reaction was 'Yes,' because I'd always wanted a fitness class here at the pool for the adults of the community to come down and enjoy, and I was very pleasantly-surprised that from the start half the class was made up of kids also," shares Woodville Pool manager Dawn Peters. "I think it's something every community definitely needs, a good fitness routine, and it's just giving people another great reason to come back down to the pool."

"People have definitely been excited about it, and I'm excited about it," she says. "And I've already informed (Master Taylor) that we want this class back at the pool next summer, because we've heard nothing but good things about how it's a great way to start toning your body. I just think it's a great way to stay active in the heat of the summer, and to stay cool while doing it."

H2O TKD starts this Thursday, Sept. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Putnam County YMCA located at 101 Putnam Pkwy. in Ottawa. For class rates or more information, visit putnamymca.org, or call 419-523-5233, or contact Master James Taylor at 419-704-4407.