Saturday, August 29, 2015

How Taekwondo has Influenced my Life

by Christina Dolan
     Taekwondo has influenced my life in many ways.  It has helped me in mind and in body.  When I signed up four months ago, I expected a life style change.  Taekwondo has not only influenced my life, it has become my life.
Chosun students meditating at Golgulsa Temple
     I grew up in a household where perfection was expected and anything less than perfection wasn't worth doing.  It was either an all or nothing type of lifestyle.  You could only imagine the type of pressure one might feel with this type of mentality.  If I didn't get the highest grades in school, my grandmother would ask why didn't I know whatever it was that I didn't get correct.  I had very little self confidence because, let's face it, you are in school to learn.  If I knew EVERYTHING, than I wouldn't be a student, I'd be the teacher.  Even as a teacher, you don't know EVERYTHING.  There was so much focus on the things that I didn't do or didn't get, there was no room to focus on what I DID accomplish or DID achieve. 
      This sort of "all or nothing" mentality was devastating to my self-confidence.  I was afraid to try anything because I was so afraid of failing.  I was afraid to take chances, I was afraid to take risks, and I was afraid of disappointment.  I learned as a young child that if you didn't achieve perfection, you were a disappointment.  I began to internalize this feeling, and it carried over to adulthood. 
      As an adult, I very rarely stepped out of my comfort zone.  I was afraid of hearing my grandmothers voice saying "why?"  I would not take many chances.  But in 2010, a devastating accident took everything I knew about my life and changed it.  Nothing was in my comfort zone.  I found myself lost and confused and almost everything I did, I was failing.  At least that I what I thought. I entered into a great depression.   
     My children started Taekwondo in 2012.  Through them, I began to see that not everything had to be as perfect as I thought.  They were taught that everyone moves at their own pace.  They were encouraged to make their own mistakes, rather than watch someone else's.  Martial Arts was something out of their comfort zone.  As they continued to go to class, they learned about courage and integrity, self control and perseverance, and spirit.  Their spirit shown brightly with every class.  After giving much thought, I decided to join them in Taekwondo. 
      Taekwondo has influenced my life by giving me self confidence.  I still get frustrated when I don't get my turns correct or when I can't get my arms and feet to move in the right direction.  Instead of giving up when my technique isn't perfect, I want to try harder.  I will work as hard as I can to get my form correct.  The teachers and other students are so patient with me, they never once question why.  Taekwondo makes me want to try new things WITHOUT fear. 
      Taekwondo influenced me to venture out of my comfort zone.  It has given me the courage I need to block the "why isn't it perfect" out of my head.  When I do start to question myself, I think back to my teachers and fellow students words of wisdom.  They often say that it's ok if you didn't get it the first time, or that it took many belt levels to perfect a technique.  The courage that I have building is not just for Taekwondo, but for many others aspects of my life. 
      Taekwondo has been a stepping stone for me to try new things.  I recently joined my community's fire department.  I do not know anything about firefighting, but with training and school, I am learning.  I was so scared the first time I put on a Scott mask.  I knew that I only had 30 minutes of "breathable" air.  I knew that if I let fear overcome me, I would accelerate my breathing and that would only decrease my "breathable air".  I walked around a building and walked up and down stairs and through windows and stairs.  Slowly, other students began to lose their air and had to leave the building.  I continued to concentrate on my breathing and sure enough, I finished the obstacle course WITH "breathable air" flowing through. 
      There was a few times that I questioned myself.  I asked myself "what are you doing?  People run out of burning buildings, and you are running in!"  I have to change that thought to "Look at what you are accomplishing!"  I may not be perfect, and I may not have been able to crawl through a window, but I'm getting there.  I am not putting myself down because I am not able to do something 100% right away.  That change in mindset is a huge accomplishment for me.  Previously, I would have given up, saying that it is too hard for me and if I can't do it right, then I'm not doing it. 
      Taekwondo has influenced my mind as well as body.  I am able to breathe in a controlled manner.  My breathing comes in handy when I'm having a panic attack.  I find that when I am panicking, I'm not able to control my breathing, which often leads to hyperventilation.  Hyperventilating makes a bad situation worse.  When I first joined Taekwondo, I did not like to meditate.  I understood the reason for mediation, but for me, sitting in quiet with my eyes closed was anxiety producing.  It was hard at first, but I kept on trying.  At this point, I'm no longer panicking, but using the skill of breathing in other areas of my life. 
      Mediation or at least concentrating on my breathing was one of the reasons I was able to  finish the obstacle course with "breathable air".  It helps me when I feel anxious.  Instead of hyperventilating, I am able to slow my racing thoughts by slowing down my breaths.  It has taken a long time to get to this point, but I have come a long way.  I still hear the discouraging voice in my head, but I try to overcome it.  I try to replace that thought with "look at how far you've come". 
      Taekwondo has influenced my life in many ways.  It has given me the confidence that I need to find new hobbies.  It has given me the courage to start over again.  Through meditation I am able to control my breathing and that will help in many other areas of my life.  

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