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The Lightbulb Moment

In taekwondo, some lightbulb moments are slightly more obvious (like realising you have to raise your knees to flying-sidekick over three people) and some less so (like throwing your hip correctly with inner forearm block). Nonetheless, these moments help to progress us through our training and foster a sense of achievability in our martial art careers.

My first lightbulb moment in my taekwondo training was the realisation that I could actually ‘do’ something. I was the chubby, shy, unconfident kid who used to get picked on at school. I never did gymnastics and was terrified of wearing a tutu, so ballet was definitely out. Sport was not really my thing either – I swam like a rock, could only ever beat the asthmatic kid in cross country, and track and field was like asking a piglet to do the hurdles, it was never going to happen!

Taekwondo was the first extracurricular activity that I not only enjoyed, but felt like I could actually ‘do’. Not just turn up on time in uniform; not just exist as another face in the class; but actually ‘do’. Maybe it was due to having two brothers, but punching and kicking felt more natural to me than anything else had before.

I couldn’t run cross country, but I could run around a football field for a warm up. I wasn’t as graceful as my ballerina friends, but I could sidekick without falling over.

My true first lightbulb moment came after my first grading. I was terrified but tried my hardest, which in hindsight is kind of impressive for a 10 year old girl with absolutely no finesse whatsoever. At the end, my self-doubt crept in, and I honestly thought I had failed – so you can imagine my sheer disbelief and elation when I was given my yellow belt (do not pass go, do not collect yellow tip!). I’m sure my parents still remember me literally jumping into the kitchen, in a flurry of excited screaming and sobbing, wearing my new belt. I wasn’t quite as hopeless as I thought I was!

That moment means even more to me now than it did at the time, as a 2nd Dan black belt and instructor, as it’s the moment I hope every one of the students I teach has at some stage – a flash of brilliance, inspiration and self-confidence.

It might come with a yellow belt, a 1st Dan, a board break or just a well-coordinated back kick; but whatever the lightbulb moment is, don’t ever let it go. Cherish and remember it fondly, because in those moments of self-doubt and disheartenment, the lightbulb moment reminds you that you don’t just exist as another face in the class; you’re a martial artist, and you can actually ‘do’ this.

Katherine Gridley


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