Green Belt Essay
Time passes swiftly, as it often does. My white belt has turned yellow, then orange. Soon it will be green... taekwondo an ever-shifting landscape. Kicho forms bring Taeguks, Palgwe Il Jang arrives. Two forms become six, six defensive maneuvers now eighteen, nine Il Su Siks, nine Ho Sin Sools. New kicks, new stances, knife hand. An arsenal is building, a foundation laid. I’m reminded—challenge is a steady stream. In taekwondo, you either focus or founder, and since the vista has widened and my desire grown, I’m daunted.
|Misty Mountains of South Korea|
I’m not a halfway person. What I want to do, I want to do all the way. Full vigor, nothing withheld. Yet, if I were an animal, I’d be a donkey. Slow, plodding, standing stock still in the pasture, time lost to thought. I’ve often wished for two lives, one to observe and ponder, the next one to live. A month to work on back stance, half a year to cultivate knife hand. Perfecting one technique, then another. Wholly impractical. Maybe I’ll get another life, but, in the interest of assurance, it’s this one or bust.
There’s a part of me that would like to stay at orange belt. Even with a growing repertoire, I’m securely in the beginner’s realm. There’s time enough for review; expectations are low. Praise comes easy. I know exactly where to stand in the line up. Spinning hook kick is around the corner, though. Expectations grow. As a greenhorn, I show potential. In time this may fall flat. Pretty kicks must gain in speed and power, a palm heel has to do more than land in the right place.
The ‘demon of self-doubt’ is pernicious. My left knee twinges. “You should have started ten years ago,” this scathing voice intones. I stretch my toe too far in the wrong direction: “You’re going to get hurt.” When I pause to admire Miyamoto Musashi, up it pipes, “You are not he.” I’d like to tell this self-satisfied inner specter a thing or two, but I’m afraid it may be right. I’ve started too late. First dan is reachable, but fourth dan? Beyond? I don’t know. I should quit. I’ll never be the martial artist I’d like to be, nor the one I might have been.
There is, however, a counter to the self-destructive voice. Perseverance is a primordial mandate, rooted in the indomitable spirit. It’s embedded in our code. Everywhere we see and hear it—insistent voices, human souls longing to be known. Ubiquitous in human history, it is perseverance which has carried us forward from the very beginnings of civilization. Korea, too. In war after war, battle after battle, Koreans fought not only to survive but to thrive with their cultural identity intact, their country intent on industry, innovation, growth. Countless stories of courage and grief speak of their determination. They would not give up.
Versus will, discouragement is an unconvincing foe. More than anything, the human spirit wants to be. Always. Thus, when my self-doubt goes too far, latent fierceness rises up, my own indomitable spirit. Who’s to say what I might have been, or what I’ve yet to be? Shall I let unfulfilled fears be my guide? I haven’t ever; I won’t start now. Even as I grow and age, I am still the young girl that I was. So long as my mind and body hold and my spirit is within, I will lay claim to that fiery girl. She is ever with me. I won’t let her down.
Instead, I will practice, patience as well as technique. Palm heel today, knife hand tomorrow, the reverse next week. I will build today’s progress into tomorrow’s mastery, take my lumps, and cherish victories as they come.