Breaking Through the Low, Middle and High

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





obstructionSometimes the only way to get around an obstacle is to change directions.

Tired of waiting for the snow to melt.

Working on a new routine to address training challenges and writing blocks.

A Mental Exercise

ImageI count out loud but say the moves in my head.

18 Low X block
19 Knee strike
20 …
20 …
20 …
It’s gone. So I start over. Again, stall at 19. Take it once more from the beginning but the remaining 32 moves at are inaccessible, lost somewhere in the recesses of my brain. The more frustrated I become, the less I can remember, despite patient reminders from the instructors. I head home from class disappointed, finding little consolation that I made it through the 486 combined moves of all my previous forms.

It would be easy to take the night off.  Go to bed.  Try again some other time. But that’s not what a black belt does. It’s not the example I wish to set for my students. Practice and perseverance set us apart.

So once everyone else is sleeping.  I take out my cards.  Breathe. Read and walk through it over and over until the light bulb blazes into being over my head. That joyful a-ha moment endorphin rush encourages a dozen more repetitions. And I wake up early, so I can do it again.

I love Martial Arts because it provides both physical and mental challenges.  We need both to be our best selves.

Running in Circles

My great-uncle Joe, teasing my mother and aunt who were staying at the farm for a few weeks in the summer, cut the head off a chicken which ran around blind, until it realized it was dead.

I’ve been contemplating goals since the new year.  And feeling a little like that chicken.  There are so many obstacles.  At school, work and home nothing seems to get accomplished.  The weather shuts us all in, something new breaks, or someone gets sick.  And it’s easy to use all those things as an excuse.

So, I made myself a playlist. Titled it unoriginally: RUN.  I come to work early, plug my tablet into the main dojang speakers, crank the volume until I can feel the music, and then I start my laps.  And that one accomplishment helps me focus.

Uncle Joe was fortunate that my Great Grandmother let him keep his head, when she was told what he had done.  But I’m thankful for the proverbial connection.

And even though I’m running in circles, I’m feeling a little less blind.



Kicks to the Head

I still don’t take criticism well.

It’s one of those things that we learn to deal with as a Martial Artist through competition and testings, but as a writer, it all seems terribly subjective – more of a personal attack than sparring. I would rather be kicked in the head (and I know from experience it’s not pleasant).

I was drawn to Tae Kwon Do because of the community. It is the same for blogging, although I find it harder to put myself out there.  Today’s Zero to Hero challenge addressed that hesitancy.  Our assignment was to find some topics and blogs to follow, understanding that’s an invitation for others to look at your work.

I created a blog list.  Some, I’ve been following forever.  Some, I started today.  I look forward to reading and will welcome your comments (while keeping my high block up). Take a look at the list.  They might inspire you as well.

Martial Arts Meets the Grinch

I am writing – just not here.  Always striving to find balance.

Below is a poem I altered slightly for our academy to perform at the annual holiday party! With apologies and thanks to Dr. Seuss. (Note: Pilsung is a Korean word roughly translated to ‘I can do it’ or ‘Certain victory.’ We use it at our school as a salutation, farewell, and all through out class as a reminder.)

Every student
In the dojang
Liked Tae Kwon Do a lot …

But the one
Who lived just North of the school
Did NOT!

Oh he hated the school, the whole on going season.
Please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
Maybe deep down his spirits were low.
But I think that most likely, he just didn’t KNOW.

Whatever the reason,
His spirit or shoes,
He glared out the window, hating the school.

“Just look at those cars, picking up, dropping off.
They can’t really be happy.” The angry one scoffed.
“There’s going to be fighting, head kicks and swift punches.
Then they’ll follow it all with some push ups and crunches!”

They’d do something he liked least of all!
Every student in class, the tall and the small
Would breathe deeply in, to fill up their lungs
Saying hi and goodbye with a hearty PILSUNG!

“‘I can do it they say’. Well, I think they cannot!
Those belts that they wear are just something that’s bought.”
He paced back and forth, deciding to go.
“I’m going to demand that they stop the whole show!

And over he marched, slamming their door,
His angry words falling all over the floor.
The students unsure whether truth or a test,
Said, “We’re sorry. Did we do something to make you upset?”
He suddenly stopped, surprised by concern,
Wondering now what they really did learn.

When out to the front, from the back of the line
Stepped young Abby Smith, who was just turning nine.
“It may look like fighting, but you know what we find,
That our best self-defense is always being kind.
It’s for good that we practice and hope that we teach,
Being our best is not out of reach.
For we can change the world, bit by bit, one by one.
Come try it with us, I think you’ll have fun!

And what happened then?
Well in the dojang they tell,
That the spirit within him started to swell.
With each class his strength and serenity grew.
He honored his practice every week through.
And now when old or new students come call,
His PILSUNG rings out as the loudest of all!

Always Learning

I am teaching a self defense unit at an area high school. And as I remind them, I am reminded:

Anything you want to be good at you need to practice!

There’s no excuse for time away from writing or training because I want to be good.

And I can only change me.