My Martial Arts Journey

This has been something that has been in the works for a while now, and I’m so excited to finally be writing about it! If you’re actively involved in my life in any way, you already know what I’ve been working on. And if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you either know or you (hopefully) saw my post on Friday. Either way, I’m so excited to share the news. I am officially a black belt in taekwondo!

I started martial arts in December of 2020. But to tell this story fully, I really need to back up before then.

I’ve always been interested in the idea of knowing how to protect myself. It’s just never really worked out for me in my schedule. Instead, I was involved in other sports, like dance, gymnastics, soccer, and cheerleading. Then when I got to college, I mainly found myself exercising by being in the gym. It was fine, but I missed the variation sports provided.

One of my closest friends has been involved with martial arts for almost as long as I’ve known them. As we were talking one day, they said they wanted to get back into it so they could teach martial arts to others. I realized then that I had no other blocks in my schedule that were in my way. I had the time and the energy.

I did some research and found a couple of schools near me. I settled on the closer one and scheduled an introductory class. It actually ended up being a private class because it was cold outside.

It was definitely a little intimidating at first, but I quickly realized I loved it. I kept coming back. I was actually able to test for my yellow belt two weeks in.

In addition to normal classes, my school also does a belt camp. It’s a week’s worth of training instead of two months. We train four hours a day, and at the end of it, we have the opportunity to test for the next belt.

After testing for and receiving my yellow belt, I immediately jumped into a belt camp. I tested for and received my orange belt that week.

Another thing my school does is in the first couple months of the year is an inter-school sparring tournament. So you guessed it. I signed up for that just a month into martial arts. I started learning how to spar and continued to improve.

I continued to test and learn new material. Come summertime of 2021, I did another belt camp. In August of 2021, I took the camp and tested for my first level of teaching certification. I figured since I was already a teacher publicly, I might as well be one in martial arts too.

I started teaching and continued to learn and improve. Because I joined during the pandemic, I didn’t have a lot of people who started around the same time I did. I had one friend who was just one rank above me. I worked so hard so that he and I could test together. But unfortunately, I think him and his family ran into some issues, and they stopped coming.

Because no one else was really at my rank, I was sparring black belts from pretty early on. As I continued to advance, the number of black belts grew as the others above me tested for their ranks. And because the pandemic restrictions I got quite a few other students who started after me.

Finally it was my turn. I tested in March for my black belt. It was a two-day training camp. And even though my official testing was Saturday afternoon, it technically started as soon as I stepped on the mat Friday night. I worked as hard as I could. The main testing itself went well for the most part. My patterns looked good, I sparred well, and my self-defense made people laugh and was pretty real.

But when it came to my board breaking, I don’t know what happened. I only got through one of my stations. I think I was just exhausted and got into a mental block. I don’t know. I also physically hurt myself in the process.

I honestly felt like I failed myself. Up until that point, I had rarely struggled with martial arts. I felt like everyone was counting on me, and I couldn’t live up to their expectations. It knocked me down harder than I expected it to.

I took a week off to heal both physically and mentally. I had to work through a lot of what I had experienced. I won’t pretend it was easy. I wrote down my feelings, talked to people I trust, and accepted what had happened. After the week off, I came back to class, and worked on my discipline. I had to do 500 techniques of each one that I missed (You should have seen the bruise for a little bit!). But I was able to break through the boards like nothing. And because I did it in the specific timeframe, I was able to pass and get my black belt.

And then it was graduation. I had to demonstrate one of my testing components (I chose my pattern). In addition, I had to give a presentation. My martial arts instructor recently instituted a new rule. Martial arts is about more than what happens on the mat. Your life in general should emulate the characteristics that you learn while training. For that reason, we were required to have a community service project. I’m currently volunteering with a local food organization, and I had to give a presentation about what they do and why I chose them. Then I recited a Black Belt Oath and had my belt tied on me for the first time.

It’s been a long journey, and I did it incredibly fast. I participated in three of those weeklong belt camps. I have taken two instructor exams. I have competed in tournaments. I have tried to pick up every opportunity that is handed to me so that I can learn all that I can.

I know for many people, the black belt is the culmination. It’s the end point, the goal they work for. But most actual black belts, that’s not the case. I can keep testing. I can keep going. And I will. I continue to train and reach my goals.

Martial arts has taught me so much about myself. I am more capable of things that I once believed were impossible. I am learning strength, discipline, courage, and perseverance. I’m not giving up. I’m going for more. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I’m so thankful for this journey. If you’re thinking about getting involved in martial arts, I cannot recommend it enough. It might just change your life like it has changed mine.

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