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Taekwondo: The Way of Hand and Foot

Gloria Chace

What in the world ever made me think I could do Taekwondo? Taekwondo has never even remotely been on my personal radar my whole life. Master Park, who has always so delicately guarded against divulging my age, would tell you only that 20 years before I started taekwondo (that was more than 3.5 yrs ago) I was 46 yrs of age. So how did this come about so late in life?

Well, before I started taekwondo, my grandchildren and my daughter were practicing here. My daughter once casually said to me, "Mom, you should try it." I thought that was unlikely. I could never do what I saw going on at this studio. But her comment got under my skin. I thought, well, I have nothing to lose if I just try. If I can't do it, I just don't continue. Soon after I started, much to my weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, my daughter and grandchildren, one by one, dropped out. But it was too late for me. I was hooked. I quickly became fascinated by the loud thwack with a well-placed roundhouse kick on the paddles. I quickly came to not feel strange with the bowing thing, but to truly enjoy the feeling of deference and respect. I love every break-through when I finally "get it!". . .or . . .come closer to getting it. I love it when I walk out that door and have a feeling of accomplishment and feel like pumping my fist and exclaiming out loud, "YES!! I really felt improvement this time." I am one who gets discouraged if I am trying to learn something and the instructors don't pay attention to the details of teaching, i.e. if they show me how to do something, and then when I execute an approximation, they are satisfied without continuing to work on technique. At this school, they DO work on constantly improving technique as they see you are ready for it. This is very high on my appreciation list.

One big bonus is Taekwondo has largely removed from my life the pressure I have always felt to "get exercise!" Unlike some people, I have never been one who has a burning desire to exercise! I have always been motivated to get exercise by wanting to be healthy, NOT by the urge to move! But I practice taekwondo because it's fun, because I am constantly learning, because I have the satisfaction of slowly improving technique and skill. I may be very, very tired after a long, busy day at work; I may be depressed on occasion. But I get home from work and go into auto pilot: put on the dobok; get in the car and go-to-Taekwondo. Just getting out of the work clothes and into the dobok has a magical restorative effect. Almost every time after an hour in practice I leave feeling better. The exhaustion has totally disappeared and my spirits feel immeasurably better. It is so different from anything else I have ever done to workout.

This is the only activity I have tried where the motivation to engage in the activity is fed by wanting to meet goals, by the satisfaction of accomplishment. When I walk out of the studio knowing that I really felt a change in this kick, or that technique, that's my reward. And oh yeah... I got a good workout! No more "gotta-get-a-workout-guilt"! It just happens!

There are disadvantages to starting taekwondo when you are well out of your teen years. In spite of my competitive desires, the muscles refuse to fire as quickly as they used to. I have almost come to terms with the idea that I will never kick as high as Joseph, or do the splits like Yoada, or do a pretzel bend like Kruz. I have had to give in to the need for recovery time between workouts. And so far I cannot see my way to conquering jumping spin kicks.

There are a few times when I have left the studio discouraged because I could not remember the poomses, or could not break a board after multiple tries. But, with the encouragement of Instructor Daniel, Master Park and all of the others here who have helped me to learn and improve technique, as well as the help of a good chiropractor who keeps all the ribs, back bones, and hip joints in their proper positions, I am still going. The sprained toe has healed... twice, the ribs have been persuaded back into position so I could breathe again, and thus far no knee surgeries or hip replacements have been necessary. And I am still learning and improving my skills.

I am amazed by how much easier it is to learn the more complex poomses than it was for me to learn the very first Taeguk Il Jang Poomse! That first form had me baffled for the longest time. When I looked ahead at the other students doing complex forms, I thought, "I will never be able to do those things!" But each time I learned another form, another self-defense move, another breaking technique, I began to think, "okay... now I can learn the next one." After several belt colors earned I finally figured out that all I had to do was learn the next piece. Enjoy the pleasure of watching the beautiful forms and the complex moves the higher belts display, but all I have to think about for myself is what I'm working on right now.

For some reason when I started I did not believe I could any longer significantly improve in flexibility, but decided to try anyway. When I first started I could no longer bend over and touch my fingertips to the floor. In my memory I have never been able to bend over and put my palms flat on the floor. But now I can actually, with a little self-persuasion, work my way down to palms flat on the floor. I have never in my life been able to do splits... and now... well... I still can't. We'll just see how that goes. While I have pretty much accepted the fact that I will never do some of the things I see some others do, I don't in my mind limit the possibilities... as much as I used to anyway.

Master Park one time said to me quietly, "I can't wait until you get your black belt." I was startled! ME... a black belt!!?? Unbelievable! But after all he and instructor Daniel have done to encourage me and train me properly, how could I possibly let them down? I had to at least try and believe I could do it. I have no idea what Master Park's expectations were at that time, but here I am.

There is so much more to learn. Such a long way to go to develop good form and technique about which I can truly feel confident. I want to continue to train for a long, long time. I very much appreciate the help and encouragement from those with higher belts ranks. Even though instructor Daniel has to prod me on the confidence issue, and Ms Paula has had to add her own encouragement, it has meant a great deal to me to study and practice under Instructor Daniel and Grand Master Park. I appreciate the excellent help the black belt instructors provide. I also get a real kick out of occasionally being taught a technique by a 10 year old.

So the story of me and Taekwondo is not one of "Well, I've always been athletic, so I just naturally fell into this." Not at all! Rather, it is a story of significant skepticism and doubt gradually turning into accomplishing something I never dreamed I could. I went from "I can't do that stuff" to "I think I can", to "oh I can learn that," and I AM learning!

The point is... Taekwondo has added much to my life that I never expected. And I am delighted with it all. I'm healthier, stronger, and more flexible. I have improved energy, improved mood, and have added fun in my life. I have a great sense of accomplishment, and I have unabashed pride in being able to declare: "I am a first degree BLACK BELT!"

Posted on 8/9/2013 at 10:08 PM , Edited on 8/9/2013 at 11:08 PM

Comments:

  1. Robert Gaut

    This is truly inspirational, Mrs. Gloria! I'm in my 40's, too, and none of this comes easy for me anymore. My goal is to reach black belt in Hapkido but, like you, there are days when it seems like I'll never get there. Thanks for the inspiration!!!