Martial Artist Runners


What Martial Arts have meant to me over the years (Read 393 times)

    I wrote this as part of my exam for first degree black belt. What the Martial Arts Have Meant to Me Over the years, the martial arts have meant a lot of different things to me. Early on in my martial arts career, I was studying karate. I found the predictability of the classes and the rigid environment brought a much-needed stability to my chaotic teenage life. The exercise and sparring gave a safety vent for my aggressive feelings, and the teacher became a father-figure to me. I found that I could express myself through my forms and through my practice, and martial arts became a form of self-expression to me. After about a year in karate, I was asked to start to help lead groups and teach other students. This was a new experience to me, and quite a challenge. The hardest part for me was learning how to keep a class moving and the students interested. I was learning leadership skills, and as time went on and I got better at teaching, I felt pride in those skills. I worked hard to make sure that I repaid my teacher’s trust in me. A number of years went by, and for various reasons I was unable to attend martial arts classes. In 2002, I was at a point in my life where I had the stability and finances to sign up for martial arts again. I had never stopped missing martial arts; not studying had left a void nothing could fill. Since no one in Raleigh was teaching my previous style of karate, I chose to study taekwondo at a studio next to where I lived. My body had changed for the worse during my time away and I was no longer the light, supple teenager I had been. I had to learn humility as I tried again and again ... and failed ... to do things that my classmates were able to do. I also learned that hard work and persistence can make up for a lesser amount of talent, and that even very talented athletes will do poorly if they don’t practice or pay attention. In September of 2004, I fell very badly during class, tearing my left ACL and the meniscus in my knee. One moment I was doing a fairly simple kicking drill, and the next I was unable to walk. I was devastated. My contract with the school was ending that month, and with surgery looming, I decided not to renew. When I stopped, I realized how important Tae Kwon Do had become to me. The physical activity had become therapy for the daily stressors in my life. Mastering difficult kicks after much hard work had built my self-esteem. Most importantly, I realized that the class had become like family to me. Tae Kwon Do had become the center of my life, and I missed it terribly. It took most of a year of physical therapy before I was able to start running to improve my physical health. However, I was unable to perform the sudden, twisting and jumping movements required in Tae Kwon Do. Another year passed, and I felt I was ready to get back to martial arts. I had moved and lost ties with my old school, so I started looking for a new one. That’s when I found White Tiger. Starting back in martial arts after my life-changing injury was very difficult. Again my body had changed, and again not for the better. I was heavier. I was stiffer. My skills were not nearly as good as I remembered them. Even worse, I discovered during my first few classes that my knee was not as stable as I’d thought it was. I could feel the joint twisting and sliding around in ways it should not. It hurt, and I was afraid that I’d never be able to really do martial arts again. I wore my knee brace, and after every class I would go home, ice my knee, take ibuprofen, trying not to face the possibility that my days of marital arts might be gone for good. Week by week, bit by bit, the knee improved. I had fewer and fewer episodes of it twisting in sickening ways. I had less and less inflammation after classes. I began to hope again that I could be a martial artist. I knew I had a large imbalance between my right and left legs. I could hop easily on my right leg. I could barely hop on my left. I could not jump side-to-side without my knee hurting. I could not balance on my left leg for long. I had no strength in my left leg. If I did a jumping kick and tried to land on my left leg, it would sometimes buckle on me. I set about trying to fix that. Day after day I would intentionally hop on my left leg. I would practice turning around on it, over and over. Simple things, like being able to shift my weight, required practice. But, with practice, they got better. Now, almost a year later, I feel like I can trust my left leg almost as much as my right. I can hop, turn, kick, jump and land without fear. I had persevered. I had not given up. I had worked hard, and I had overcome. One of the tenants of Tae Kwon Do is an indomitable spirit. Through overcoming this injury, I was able to prove to myself that I have this. I have shown myself beyond doubt that I will persevere and overcome. While I was dealing with my injury, I also came to understand something very special about White Tiger. This school makes a point to incorporate a bit of fun or play with every class. The positive energy of the masters and the way they encourage and motivate students was new to me. I had in the past taken myself and my martial arts quite seriously – probably too seriously. I had felt that if you were having fun then you weren’t learning or working hard. Seeing how I felt after being in a White Tiger class, I realized that I’d been wrong and that I want to be like those masters. I want to bring both fun and feelings of success and accomplishment to others. The masters here are role models for how to bring a positive experience in martial arts to a wide audience. A few months ago, I joined the leadership team here at White Tiger. I’ve been helping out primarily with the white belt “basics” class. It’s a different style of teaching than what I learned so many years ago in that karate class. Positive reinforcement, motivation, fun, and the belief that every student can be successful are the core teaching values I am learning and attempting to pass on. It is very satisfying to help students be successful in taekwondo, as I know they will carry that confidence out into the world and it will change their lives. My relationship with martial arts has changed over the years, much as I have changed over the years. One thing that has not changed, though, is the central role it has played in my life. Whatever class I was taking, and even when I was unable to take a class, I defined myself as a martial artist. Martial arts have given so much to me; I cannot foresee a time in my life when I would not want to participate. There is always a new challenge, something new to learn, something to work on, and something that can be improved. And I love sharing that with people.

    Roads were made for journeys...

      You are a True Martial Artist, very proud of you.
      What we do in life, echo's in eternity. Maximus.

        I'm inspired. I'm going to quit work (for the day, in fifteen minutes), run home (intervals at the track, first, though), and then practice my katas. Thanks for sharing.