It’s all my dear friend Amy’s “fault.” I’m smiling to myself as I am writing this. Amy and I decided we needed to “get more exercise.” She suggested Zumba. I had no idea what Zumba is. I googled it. I quickly came to the conclusion that Zumba was not for me. “I have two left feet and can’t dance,” I said.
Amy’s young son was taking a martial arts class at the nearby Boys and Girls Club. It turned out that the martial art he was (still is) doing is Tang Soo Do (TSD). Tang Soo Do is a traditional Korean martial art. It dates back over 2000 years and shares its roots with the more well-known Tae Kwon Do. It has influences from Japan and China as well.
I immediately loved the instructor, Mr. Osai Robinson. Later he became Master Osai Robinson (fourth-degree black belt). Also, in college, I had briefly taken some Judo classes (until my knee got hurt doing it).
I said “Yes” and Amy and I joined the school and started training Tang Soo Do. I was 48 at that time.
Amy had taken dancing lessons as a kid. Me? Remember my “two left feet”? Yes, I had rock climbed, canoed, kayaked, hiked, and gone caving. But performing choreographed moves? Not so much!
Sticking With It And Loving the Challenge
Yet, I stuck with it. I loved the challenge and being there with Amy. I also bonded with everyone else in the school. The school grew. More adults joined; several trained with their children. Our son Dylan trained for a bit, too. So cool! It was hard to make the excuse “I’m too old for this!” when there are other adults not so different in age doing it with you.
On June 27, 2015 (about three months after joining the school), I tested for my first belt. White belt with black stripe. Over the years, I marveled at how hard we all worked to get a piece of electrical tape attached to our belts. You start out as “10th gup” (white belt). You test for a white belt with a stripe (9th gup). Next is orange, green, and brown – each color represents two gup levels, one without and one with stripe. It is not about the belt, of course – the belt is more a mile marker along your journey.
Reaching a New Milestone
Yesterday, more than six years after my first belt test, I tested for my blue belt. The blue belt is the last one before testing for the black belt. It went well. Not flawless but well. I stayed calm. When I made a mistake I moved on to the next move. I focused on each task as it came before me.
I loved the cracking sound of the wooden boards we had to break. There is something exhilarating about breaking wooden boards with your bare hand and feet. Especially, the speed break. You hold a board in one hand and break it with a hand technique executed with the other hand. Crack! Yay!
Locking back at this journey, I can ensure you there were many ups and downs. I doubted myself so many times. In the beginning, I was struggling to move my arms in the right way to execute a “chamber” before a punch or block. Use more hip movement to get more power. Jump higher. Jump?!
Also, in the summer of 2019, we moved to Texas. I was a “red belt” (without stripe). My first school had been about five minutes from my house. In North Texas where I live now, there is one school, 40 minutes from our house. When I joined, the class consisted of kids; no adults. I was not sure whether this would work for me. But, I had come so far already.
The Question Along the Way: Do I Quit?
Could I quit now? The answer was “no.” And so I continued with the amazing support of my new instructor, Mr. Neese, and his co-instructor, Bentley. Some of the “kids” had become young adults. They achieved blue belt and then black belt status. They became co-instructors. Again. bonding took place. I’m so grateful!
I look at the unforgettable highlights along this journey so far:
- Going to local tournaments – feeling scared and yet, coming home with medals and a boost in experience and confidence.
- Our school “West Coast Dragons” performing a marital arts demo set to music. What happend to my “two left feet”? Maybe I do have a left and a right foot afterall?! 🙂
- Attending the World Tang Soo Do Championship in 2018 in Greensboro, NC. Amy asked me to go, and I’m so happy I went. It is hard to explain how much it meant to me to be part of the first ever all-women’s demo. I was set to the song “Unstoppable” by Sia. The chorus says “I’m unstoppable today!” Around 200 women from all over the world performed this demo in front of 5,000 martial artists. Absolutely incredible! – I even placed third in sparring in my age group.
- The feeling to work your heart out and leave everything you got on the floor – and get that next belt.
- The cameraderie and friendship – the laughs, the tears, the pats on the back “You can do this!”; Aida, a black belt joining me in pushups during a test when I thought I had nothing left, the list of memoral moments goes on and on.
“A Black Belt Is a White Belt Who Didn’t Give Up.” Amen to that.
I had so many doubts. I couldn’t see myself getting there. All I could see was that I could work to get that next belt. Looking back a little and seeing that I could do things I didn’t think I could do before helped me to continue.
You may not be in martial arts. But many journeys are just like this one. Growing a business. Growing a movement. Making a vision a reality.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
Holy smoke! Yes! What a perspective that gives for many things we do in life and in business. Parenting?! Leadership?! Any project that matters to you?!
I have to add something to the quote by Bill Gates. What made my journey so memorable and worthwhile is the people I did it with! THANK YOU ALL!
Which journey have you been on that has had its ups and downs?
Which techniques do you use to stay or become “unstoppable” and continue it despite challenges and setbacks?