Kelly Gordon’s Black Belt Essay
One night recently Mr. Jay said to us, “If you can’t master yourself, how will you master the world?”
Such a good question.
I began studying Taekwondo 4+ years ago at the age of 39. My first experience inside NEXTStep was on the sidelines, watching Jackson begin his martial arts journey. It was good fun watching him learn how to use his body alongside his mind. He loved it, and I witnessed the amazing strength and light it was bringing into his life.
One day Mr. Jay said to me, “Ma’am, you should try this!” And so, my journey began. Many years later, here I am – seeing the amazing strength and light Taekwondo has brought into my own life.
Now, back to that question, and “mastering yourself.” As you can imagine, coming into Taekwondo as a middle-aged woman is daunting. You’re bringing with you a lot of “stuff”: emotional baggage, an ego, a tired body, a cluttered mind, and sometimes, a low-spirited heart.
I had no idea what exactly I was in for, but I was ready to give it
a try. I needed to make some changes in my life. Everything I had been watching from the sidelines, well, it looked easy enough. HA. Boy, was I wrong. The challenges — the blood, the sweat and the tears, it’s real. And it’s changed my life radically. I’m so grateful.
As Mr. Jay tells us, Grandmaster So always compared Taekwondo to life-in-miniature. As a white belt, you are a baby. You grow up a little bit with each new belt, and when you receive your black belt, you’re more mature, like a senior in high school (with a lot more to learn!)
You slowly, but surely, begin to master yourself.
I know how to kick. I can punch. I can break boards. But here’s what I’ve really learned.
I’ve learned that it’s ok to be imperfect. I’ve learned that sometimes showing up is the hardest part. I’ve learned that failure is the quickest way to progress. I’ve learned what beauty lies in simplicity. I’ve learned that a good ki-yup can alter the trajectory of any evening. I’ve learned that looking in the mirror at myself isn’t so bad after all. I’ve learned that virtue and hard work still exist in this world. I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot, and that my mind will always give up before my body does.
I replaced bad habits with good ones. I started caring less about how I looked, and focused more on how I felt inside. I surrounded myself with positive, supportive people who shared the same passion I did. I bonded with my son in a truly unique way.
When I look back at the last four years of my life, I think, WHOA. A lot has happened in my life, good and bad. But, there’s been one constant. One thing that kept me going, no matter what. Taekwondo.
What a blessing it is to find something you connect with on a very deep level that keeps you focused and determined. In the midst of a busy life of work and parenting, my time on the mats at NEXTStep has been a source of freedom for me: physically, mentally and spiritually.
I can’t wait to see what being a black belt has in store for me. My spirit eagerly awaits new challenges, and new opportunities to master myself over and over again.