Black Belt Essay by Robert Jenkins
My time with NEXTStep began over four years ago, with my brothers William and Matthew. I was just turning eleven when I joined. My interest in taekwondo and martial arts in general began when I joined here at NEXTStep. Before that I didn’t put that much thought into it. I remember Master Jay telling me to not be frustrated if I ended up falling behind my brothers in rank because of my age. Nevertheless, he always held me to the same standards as them, even allowing me to join in classes that where far above my age group. Having those expectations motivated me to work harder and make sure that I stood out in a positive way. It is always encouraging to be mistaken for a higher rank or age; it validated my effort.
Throughout my time at NEXTStep I ultimately maintained rank with my brothers all the way up until we could test together for black belt. Sadly, I ended up having several severe injuries at that time that still linger with me to this day; delaying my endeavors. However, physical injuries have not been the largest obstacle that I have faced throughout my time at taekwondo. It is probably very little known, because of the effort I put forth, but I have severe social anxiety. It can be difficult to maintain eye contact, speak to people directly, and otherwise interact and perform in group settings (that being said, I probably won’t be able to give a lengthy and quality speech. But I will do my best.). Taekwondo at NEXTStep has not only been a physical test, but also a psychological one.
My favorite part of taekwondo is the advanced level kicks with jumping and spinning involved. Although, they are strenuous on my joints now due to previous injury, they are still my favorite. I remember having difficulty with doing the 90 degree turn to begin the white belt form when I first began. Being able to properly execute those advanced kicks directly shows the progress that dedication and effort can make. They challenge the limitations of your body and demonstrate control and high levels of technical and athletic ability.
Taekwondo has provided me a great foundation of martial knowledge and discipline which I hope to apply throughout my life and to other martial arts that I will eventually attempt. It has also helped me with social situations as the studio has challenged me to maintain eye contact and formally address the people with whom I am speaking. I am grateful for these lessons and the self-improvement they have provided.