Black Belt Essay by Matthew Jenkins
When I started Tae Kwon Do, a little less than 4 years ago, I was originally just trying to improve my soccer. I was hoping that the balance, strength, and flexibility I gained through Martial Arts training would help push me to the next level in regards to the game. However as I progressed in skill and rank, I began to love Tae Kwon Do independently of all other activities. It ceased to be a tool for my betterment in soccer and grew to be a tool for the betterment of myself.
It is difficult to think of just one or two achievements that Tae Kwon Do training has afforded me. Practicing Tae Kwon Do is in and of itself a gratifying achievement. That being said I am particularly thankful for what is has done for me, physically. Three and a half years ago, I struggled to do a single pushup or to do a single set of breathing exercises. Tae Kwon Do pushed me to be better, and now I can do things my 13 year old self would have never thought I could do.
However, my road was not without bumps and bruises. Those who know me well know that I am prone to injuries, particularly of the ankle. This is due in part to the hereditary structure of my foot which is so flat that my ankle rests on the ground. This makes is harder to turn on the ball of my foot, and impossible to turn my foot all the way back. However, this obstacle was small when compared to my will to overcome it. I would spend sometimes half an hour doing foot exercises in an attempt to be able to turn my foot for kicks in the proper way. Tae Kwon Do is what motivated me to overcome the obstacle of my feet, at least concerning physical activity.
The parts of Tae Kwon Do training that I love the most, are the parts concerning the very small details of what makes something work, or not work. One memory I hold in particular regard was during a morning class, back when I was a much earlier rank. The only people in the class with me were my brothers and Mr. George. I was struggling to do a side kick correctly. I was having trouble turning my foot enough, and it was just turning into a roundhouse kick. Master Jay told me to relax and lift my knee. When I did, he grabbed my uniform and turned my body, my weight keeping my foot on the ground. I kicked, and it was much better than any I had done to that point. Today, my favorite kick is sidekick.
The path to the black belt is a personal journey. Each individual will move at their own paces. It may take three years to make it, or it may take six. What matters is that when you finally do make it, you represent your studio and yourself in the brightest light that you can. Make your master and your inner critic proud, and never stop learning.