You don’t have to be a natural to benefit from martial art training. I know this from personal experience! My family and I started attending classes at Pacific International Taekwondo Dutton Park in 2011. With the exception of my oldest son Thomas, the rest of us were new to Taekwondo. It took me about three months to realise that I was no natural, and after almost two years not much has changed! However, the desire, energy and determination has not wavered.
I am what you would call biomechanically challenged. There is no hiding from it, and my Senior Instructor sees it weekly during my Taekwondo classes in Brisbane. I work on technique but will always come up short. Weak, too old (did I mention I was 42) or just lazy? I believe none of these. I am lucky because I can always counter- attack most situations in life with a persistent ‘never say die’ attitude.
Do you ever start something you can’t put down? I am like that. When I start something and it grabs me you need to stand aside. I get into this Avatar state frenzy. I know I have it when I find myself researching something late at night. It usually starts with finding out the history of Taekwondo. Why was it formed in the 1950’s? Why so many divisions within the one organisation? Who are the current champions and masters? How does it rank against other arts? What’s this linear versus circular form? Why are there so many similarities between Tai Chi and Taekwondo? When I start looking into these things, I know I am hooked.
Then there are the pre-training jitters and that feeling after training, when you hear yourself say: “I am glad I went to Taekwondo, I feel much better for it.” I also find myself looking for a deeper meaning within the patterns: the way they look, the sounds and feelings you get from doing them. I find some patterns are almost meditative and others are forceful and angry. I seek constant feedback from first dans and instructors at my Pacific International branch, and at grading and senior training. Grading for me is stressful but exhilarating. You have nowhere to hide but so much to learn about yourself and what you have achieved and what is still to be accomplished. Listen and watch Master Dicks when he gets motivated about Taekwondo. His words and actions are not scary or angry. It’s energy and he’s imploring you to lift and be your best.
So, what about these biomechanics of mine and how I do the best with what I have got? For me stretching and flexibility are critical. We normally arrive 30 minutes prior to class to stretch and to make sure I am ready for what’s ahead. It’s a time to focus both body and mind. Talk with the instructor and first dans and ask them about techniques and some of the finer aspects of patterns and moves. I also keep fit with regular swim, bike and running training, throw in the occasional triathlon or half marathon. These keep up my cardio fitness, but I know that over doing these will impact that all important flexibility. Like Taekwondo, I get a real enjoyment from these other activities; a ride up Mt Coot-tha or early run around the river while the sun comes up are some of the real pleasures in life.
So, does this ‘never say die ‘attitude ever wane or dim? Yes! It does for several reasons. The obvious reason is that in life we juggle many things. Your health will vary because you’re lacking sleep, not eating right or things like school or work is busy, dare I say stressful. These things slow you down and your body lets you know. I feel this when training hard for triathlons. At worst it’s called fatigue, but really, it’s the mind and body’s way of saying “slow down”. You need to listen to this. Also, if we did the same thing all the time, it wouldn’t inspire us much. While consistency in training is good, we need to mix it up. A break for a short period can be good too. Changing your routine in life is a better way of giving you variety. All these come from an element of trial and error.
There is also that pesky voice in your head, one that is persistent and can be negative. It will start about 30 minutes prior to training, when you’re on the couch or just coming home from work. It’s the one that tells you to stay at home because you’re feeling tired, there’s a TV show to watch, or you feel a little sick. Avoid this by remembering the good things you have achieved, the fact you now put on a different coloured belt, or that great feeling you get after training. You need to change tack if that voice starts to win. It means you have grown tired and maybe sore from what you’re doing and the goal seems unachievable. When you first start to feel this, seek advice on how to modify your expectations and goal setting.
I am not going to be the world’s greatest martial artist. I will be realistic in the goals I set. I would be ecstatic if I can do all 10 Taekwondo patterns to the best of my abilities and maybe one day become a black belt. But that’s a goal of lesser importance. I have other goals which relate to my three sons and their Taekwondo journey and helping them reach their full potential would be even greater.
In finishing, take time to enjoy the Taekwondo journey, or anything you choose to conquer in life. There will be spills and thrills along the way just like any pursuit. Celebrate the milestones and victories and learn from mistakes so you come back stronger. We must all be grateful and remind ourselves for the things we have by ensuring we make the most of what we‘ve got.
Dutton Park branch member