TKD Tenet inspired! Also published on my poetry blog! Insufficientgrace.wordpress.com
For every tournament since earning my high red belt, I’ve worked on the same breaking combination; the vertically stacked low, middle,and high back swing kick. I always miss one. It’s never the same one, but there’s always one.
Breaking is a fun part of the Tae Kwon Do show, but it’s also more – it’s about getting through to that next level and pushing yourself past what you’ve done before. And typically at tournament, with the low, middle, high kick, the metaphor smacks me strongly in the heel of my right foot, leaving both a physical and emotional bruise.
The Low: What are all those things that bring us down? Telling us we’re too old or not strong enough. And why is it so much easier to believe the negative over the positive?
The Middle: What keeps us stuck in our status-quo? The familiar is easy and routines comfortable. But have we become lazy or are we honestly doing our best?
The High: Look ahead! What’s your next goal? We are always moving forward, as my Sabonim reminds with “constant and never ending improvement.”
It wasn’t by far the flashiest of breaks at the competition. But it reminded me that with perseverance, practice and faith in yourself all things are possible.
Now I need to find some new kicks.
The best part of tomorrow
Writing 101 challenge day 1 – Just write. 20 minutes…go! Sadly, when I write a stream of consciousness, it always ends as a rant. But maybe it will help expel my brick breaking demons. Because even as I reread the post – I still want to try again.
He asks me what I want to practice and I never say. “The brick.” It is a block worse than any pause in my writing. It’s a nightmarish, try/fail, try/fail, try/fail with hundreds of witnesses. All of whom afterwards want to give you friendly helpful advice. Can you imagine – while icing your now swelling hand, listening to the successful saying you should just twist more, or come down straight or you need to jump. At least when something I write doesn’t go over – not so many people will see. I can delete it or wad it up and throw it in the trash. Make a paper air plane and fly it out the window. I’ve witnessed others break. Looks easy enough. I listen to the instructions. I try to practice the motions. But now, when I think about it – it’s something I no longer believe. And worse yet, I don’t think my instructors believe any more either. The “You’ll break it someday.” has morphed into “It’s not required.You don’t need to worry about it.” But deep down I still want it. So I breathe and visualize. Approach the grey offending slab. Camera flashes blinding. Tablet screens up, recording the event so I can suffer the humiliation over again “but if you watch it you can see where you made the mistake.” Echos of “You can do it” I go through the mandatory practice reaches and drops. Even in my mind, I can’t get enough air. Kiap is weak.Too slow, my arm shoots down off center. And my hand stops as always, on top of the unbroken brick. They say if you do it correctly, it doesn’t hurt. When you do it wrong, the pain reverberates on so many different levels.
I’ve been reflecting on my first day at our Martial Arts academy, mostly because I celebrated the anniversary this past week. To everyone else, it is merely an interesting statistic. My instructors have been practicing their whole lives and my children were young enough when we started to feel like this is something we’ve always done. For me, it was a renaissance. I didn’t start classes for another five months, but that was the first day I heard the message, “I can do it!” The simple mantra (combined with abundant encouragement from teachers and fellow students) helped me make some much needed changes and discover a positive new direction for my life.
A church camp I attended as a child, introduced me to the colorful glory of parachutes. From a small nondescript bag, there emerged something wonderful. I have played with them countless times since then as a student, counselor and teacher but still experience that same shot of happiness every time it is stretched across the floor. There will hopefully be many more milestones to celebrate on my journey, but I like to imagine and remember that first day as the parachute opening for the first time.
The Lilac Bush
Flash fiction by mfptkd written as a birthday gift.
Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter
I know the meaning of the words “Ever after”
from Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Rick Zelle and Jay Hungerford
“Oh, Joy!” He sang. Relieved and excited, he exclaimed, “This is it. This is home!”
They had been circling his neighborhood territory for hours, looking for a place to build, when he suddenly swooped down into the sun stretching branches of an old lilac bush. She followed cautiously, settling on a stable stem.
“Aren’t I supposed to pick?” she asked, but there was a teasing note in her voice. The plant, brushing the brick on the front of the old ranch house, was well over six feet tall. The grandparents in residence trimmed it just enough to not obstruct the high bedroom windows. It was set directly left of the front door, so late spring and summer the entire house enjoyed the flowers’ scent. The leaves today, in early spring, were still new but plentiful.
“Yes, of course.” He allowed. “But wouldn’t this be ideal? The house will guard us from the north wind. In a few weeks the leaves will be full, providing cover and the flowers will bring us breakfast in bed.”
She chirped nervously at the suggestion and hopped from perch to perch. He was an odd bird, but she had followed him because of the that, rather than despite it. His territory wasn’t as large as some, but it was well plotted and easily defensible. There weren’t as many trees as others, but it was as if each yard was trying to outdo the next in the size and scope of shrubbery. The orange on his chest didn’t puff out as far as his competitors and he would sometimes lose his place mid-song but she had witnessed his unexpected swift fierceness in battle and felt his harmonies sincere. “All right, then.” She relented. “Go get me things to build with.”
“Oh, Joy!” He said as he flew off. She smiled to herself and wondered, while collecting the dry starter twigs that would support their nest, what made him so different from the other males. She thought fleetingly that perhaps she had changed upon their meeting but shook it off; now she was being fanciful and there was work to be done. “Oh, Joy, indeed!” She scolded herself.
But when he came back, again and always leading with joy, she was pleased with how much happiness he found in their small alcove of flowers.
“Oh, Joy! I’ve brought clay to patch in holes.”
“Oh, Joy! Look at the soft fur I found for lining.”
“Oh, Joy! Come see this ribbon I found to weave within the branches.”
After a few busy days the nest was complete. “Oh, Joy!” He said softly. “I was lucky to find the best nest maker in the county.”
The cool breezes of May translated into baleful June winds, storms strengthening with competing temperatures. She was content to sit and warm the three tiny blue eggs that also arrived with summer. He was a flurry of activity, always on guard, patching the nest or gathering food, so she could concentrate on the babies. When the weather kept them both at home he would sing softly, “Oh, Joy. Do you see how wonderfully the leaves keep us dry?” And over the long hours waiting, he would tell her tales of past migrations, high altitude escapades and fellow travelers. She noted however, that the ‘joy’ was reserved for only when he spoke of their hideaway.
The eggs hatched in July and their combined energy was focused on feeding and teaching. Following their parents positive example, the little birds learned quickly. He was a proud father but still honored their habitat as if it were a castle. When a mean tempered cat failed to break through the bushes obstacles, he sang triumphantly. “Oh, Joy! We could not ask for a better shelter!”
Birds are generally sensible so there was no sadness or loss after the young found their wings, only pride in a life’s work well accomplished. They returned their attention to the outside world and discovered commotion all around the house. Strangers going in and out of the front door carrying boxes. There was a busy woman directing the activity.
And every time she walked past their nest and those bright perfumed flowers, she sneezed.
They both set out a warm late summer morning to visit feeders and maybe find some materials to spruce up the nest. Although outside of the norm, she thought they would return next year and if all was ready, they might have time for two broods. She worked hard and happily, tuning out the rumble of mowers and machines. But by mid-afternoon she noticed the other birds and animals were regarding her strangely.
“What is it?” She finally asked a passing squirrel.
“We’re sorry for you, that’s all…for birds you were such a nice couple…”
She did not let him finish his thought and flew back, racing towards home.
There was a monstrous hole next to the house where the lilacs had been. The roots were being chopped apart and tossed to the side. The new home-owners unknowingly bagged up their sanctuary, taking their bed, roof and walls. She was overcome with sadness. In her mind, she did not doubt they could find another place, but her heart burst for what she knew he loved. She found him watching from the neighbor’s roof.
“I’m so sorry.” She cried. “They’ve taken your Joy.”
He looked at her surprised and said gently, “Oh no, my dear they didn’t. You are my joy!”
Thus was my performance in a recent class described. And although affronted, I couldn’t argue as it was accurate for the portion witnessed. When working on my own stuff, my attitude is poor. It’s not limited to class. My writing time is put off (my first entry in a month). My morning meditation skipped. Poetry abandoned. Practice minimal.
The second half of that same class, I taught someone the next 12 movements of their new form. When assisting others, I focus on the present task. I am happy to help, necessary and validated. I am positive and encouraging even when they make a mistake.
So the trick will be to become a teacher to myself. Stop letting perceived inadequacies limit growth. Reclaim time for what’s important to my own success.
This weekend, I renewed my commitment to meditation. Poetry is a still surprising and welcome by-product.
It’s hard to be sad in the morning,
when all around nature wakes to
knowing only today.
We reassure and explain. We would not invite them if they were unprepared. Testing is not merely about perfecting curriculum. It’s about building our character. We persevere with a positive attitude even when it’s hard. And if we don’t succeed the first time, we try again.
What saddens me is when a few of those same parents, despite their own feelings, will allow their child to quit in a few months because “he doesn’t want to.”
Quitting is the only true fail. Everything else is experience, preparing you for what is to come.