Everyone’s Martial Arts journey has it’s ups and downs, like all aspects of life.
But for me, the underlying truth remains unaltered: Becoming a martial artist changed my life for the better in countless ways; physically, mentally and spiritually. And when I talk to you (repeatedly) about how you too should become a martial artist – it’s because I know first hand what a difference it can make.
I’m also fortunate to be part of a school open to new ideas and committed to the community. We’ve started a nonprofit taking our program into community learning centers, churches and schools in order to help underserved neighborhoods, children and families who would otherwise not be able to learn Martial Arts.
Visit us at cityyouthmartialarts.com! Learn how you can share the good and inspire others to start their own journey!
J.K. Lee City Youth Martial Arts Program
A 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization
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.
We have a color belt promotion testing this week. Many parents will inquire as to their child’s readiness because, in their words, they don’t want their son or daughter to FAIL.
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.
I count out loud but say the moves in my head.
18 Low X block
19 Knee strike
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.
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.