Tae Kwon Do is Korean karate. It means The Way of the Hand and Foot (punching and kicking). There are basically four sections to the art: Toning, Sparring, Forms and Self Defense.
It is a well rounded exercise program that encompasses muscle toning, stretching and flexibility, increasing strength and stamina through aerobic sparring and mental challenges through becoming proficient at the patterns or forms.
Most classes start out with warm-ups. These exercises are the calisthenics such as push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, trunk rotations, squat kicks and various leg stretches. For certain you will tighten your abs and strengthen your arms just from performing the warm-up exercises. Before you know it, you'll be doing fifty knuckle or triangle push-ups at rapid-fire pace and will be able to lean up against a wall and have someone lift your leg up so that your toes touch the wall behind your ear. Tae Kwon Do will definitely help you to become or to stay limber.
Sparring is fighting in a controlled environment. It's not street fighting and all participants wear protective gear: helmet, gloves, shin guards and feet guards, called kicks. Usually you will spar in three minute rounds. It's basically kick boxing. Then a minute rest; switch partners, then spar again and repeat. You will get extremely hot and sweaty. Jab, punch, upper cut, side kick, reverse punch, round house, hammer fist, bob and weave and repeat. It's an excellent aerobic exercise.
Learning the forms or patterns can really tax your brain. Many of the forms have 26+ different movements. It's your job to remember them, in order, and learn them proficiently. In theory, by learning the forms, it'll help you to become a better fighter. For example, one form might start out: high block, front kick punch left; high block front kick punch right. Turn 90 degrees, down the center, knife hand left, knife hand right, knife hand left, spear hand. And so it goes. If you master these, when it comes time to spar, you can implement some of these patterns into your match.
Many people enjoy Tae Kwon Do, or any martial arts for that matter, because it is an all inclusive exercise program. It's fun, it's challenging, and it's an excellent way to get in or to stay in shape. As with any exercise program, start slowly and consult your physician. If you haven't participated in much physical exercise in a while, your muscles will definitely be very sore for the first few weeks. Don't be intimidated by the other students may appear to be in better shape that you are. Everyone started out as a white belt. Just have fun; and get moving!