Here I sit, staring at two pages of nothing, trying to draw inspiration. On the wall there are my past belts sitting on the rack, an empty space waiting for my last colored belt. On the floor next to my bed lies my bag, my recommended belt poking out of the top, almost yelling at me that it wants to retire. And of course there’s my poster with a quote that I don’t really get and a fist smashing a board. But none of those things are really helping me right now, as I try to explain what the past eight years of my life mean to me. It’s almost like trying to explain the color blue or the smell of lemons. But I guess I’ll have to give it a go.
I started Tae Kwon Do when I was about seven, a tiny little thing with long brown hair, big blue eyes, and an obsession with ninjas. I had tried a couple different sports, gymnastics and tumbling, when one day I decided that I wanted to do Karate. I told my parents, and they looked into it. They then came back to me with a big negatory, as Karate was apparently too expensive. They instead acquired a membership at the local YMCA, and shoved me into the Tae Kwon Do class.
That first class was terrifying. There were a bunch of people in big white uniforms with all kinds of colored belts, I felt very out of place being in my colorful t-shirt and shorts. I was quite nervous, I didn’t know what I was doing at first, my kicks were wobbly, my fist wrong, my stances off, but in that first class, after I had gotten over my initial fear, I discovered something inside of me that had finally been satisfied.
At my first testing, I felt the same fear I had felt at the first class all over again, this time slightly different. It was strange and new, I was unsure what to expect. I showed what I had learned, broke my board, finished my forms, and answered questions. One of the questions I was asked was ‘why do you do Tae Kwon Do?” what an easy question, I thought. “Because Karate is too expensive” I answered seriously. Everyone laughed, although I wasn’t sure why, as it wasn’t a joke. Even though I didn’t exactly answer the question, I still got my yellow belt.
It all went up hill from there. I passed every testing, I was going up in rank very fast, my kicks where better, my uniform snapped (mostly), and I was loving it. About the time I got my brown belt, that’s when we moved schools, and Action Martial Arts opened up. It was also the time I first plateaued.
After years of going up in rank very quickly, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to test. I was just stuck, not learning anything new, but not ready to move on either. I was getting kind of bored. After about ten months, I did get to my red belt, vowing that I wouldn’t get stuck again. But I did. I just couldn’t understand it, why wasn’t I able to do everything I was supposed to?
Again it took me a year to reach the next belt, and then I broke my toe. Breaking my toe left me unable to do it, and I got kind of lazy. I didn’t want to go back to Tae Kwon Do. I was tired of doing the same things. My mother did not like this attitude, and after a long talk and a motherly shove, I went back.
I was rather rusty, I didn’t remember what I was supposed to know, and it frustrated me. But I kept at it, and eventually, after a really long time, I tested again and I got my red tipped belt. In keeping with the trend I had set for myself, I plateaued again. I still couldn’t figure out why though. I would watch enviously as people who I had started with, and people who started after me, got their black belts. I just couldn’t comprehend how they could be doing better than me. This time it took me two years but I eventually reached Recommended Black Belt.
After this, I was wary, afraid of plateauing, after remembering how I had had to claw at a completely vertical cliff face until I had finally reached the edge, only to find an even taller cliff the top. Looking at the belts on the wall, thinking I just have one more, just one more and your there. You can tell people you’ve done it. But I was too scared to really try.
I found other things to occupy my time, so I wouldn’t have to face the Cliff, I was too scared to show that I was afraid of failing, I would cover up fact that I was filled with self-doubt behind a wide smile, I hid the voices in my head that said, ‘you can’t do it, you will never do it, you will fall and you won’t be able to get back up.’ The sad thing was that I believed them.
I have always had problems with self-doubt and self-esteem. There has always been a part of me saying that I am a failure, that I suck, that I can’t do that. It got especially bad about three years ago, and hasn’t really gotten any better since. I ignored it, trying to keep myself from giving up, trying to stand up to the bully like I’ve always been told to do. But it is hard to stand up to a bully when the bully is you.
So here I sit, my inner bully informing me that this entire thing is a terrible idea and that I should just give up and be done with the whole thing. But I keep going. One of the tenants of Tae Kwon Do is an indomitable spirit, right? Like the quote above the window says; ‘Perseverance: strength lies not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.’ It reminds me that as I climb my cliff, if I do fall, which I will, I just have to get up, wipe off the dust, and get right back to climbing.
As my essay comes to a close, I want to answer the question I never finished. Why do I do Tae Kwon Do? I do it because it is something that I love. It is something that even through all the hard things in my life has always been a constant. I do it because, someone told me it was cool, and I want to keep doing it for them. I do it because I have made it mine. I do Tae Kwon Do, because it is totally and 100% me
So, now for the real question: what does Tae Kwon Do mean to me? It means courtesy, learning to be kind and gentle when you are angry. It means integrity, to keep strong in honesty and to stand firm in what you believe. It means persevering, climbing the cliff even when I am afraid. It means self-control, which is not only keeping yourself from doing the wrong things but also to keep doing the right ones. It means indomitable spirit, standing in the rain and facing your giants. It means doing something someone important to me would be proud of. It means proving to the world, and to myself, that I am capable of anything.