Yesterday, I was perusing blogs and read a post from someone I tend to admire. I find her to be a bit of an inspiration and when I read this post and how she described overcoming challenges to do what she enjoys, I couldn’t help but want to reclaim some of my former self. You see, I don’t often discuss it – I’ll explain why below – but I have studied martial arts for a good portion of my life. I hold a 5th degree blackbelt in Taekwon-Do, but I have fallen away from this former passion in my life. After reading the post I linked above, however, I felt a fire inside of me ignite – something I have not felt in a long, long time.
Before I discuss why I don’t mention it, let me offer a little background about my martial arts experience. Growing up, as a young boy, I always admired heroes and people that fought for justice and freedom (I loved comic books too, by the way, so suck it! 😉 ). I was inspired by those people that were able to use their bodies and minds to defend those that could not defend themselves. And I watched the Karate Kid, of course (“Sweep the leg, Johnny!”), and I was a fan of all the super heroes that used natural gifts – human beings (Batman is da BOMB, yo! I’ll write a post sometime about my feelings on Super-heroes and only X-men make sense to me, Superman and Spiderman do NOT make sense to me). And being a little kid that got bullied and picked last for teams during recess, I was not the shining example of an athletic super-star (Seriously, I played recreational basketball once and scored one basket the entire two years I played and the basket was an accident after tripping and letting go of the ball…I took a bow, regardless). But I had always loved martial arts.
When I was 15 years old, and lonely and trying to adjust to a new school district, my parents were trying to get me to come out of my bedroom and see real people. Due to my own loneliness, I became phenomenally versed in Dungeons & Dragons and could Dungeon Master the shit out of a campaign – except I had no one with whom to play the game. Of course, my parents were worried about me and were looking for something to get me away from the solitude I was delving into, so they came home one day and said the signed me up for a martial arts class. Of course, I was nervous and I realized the sun was really, really, really, bright (Okay, okay…I like to make jokes at my own expense), but I went. I took to it like crazy. I was naturally able to perform really well and my instructors began comparing me to technicians of the art that were far more advanced than myself. My ego, self-confidence and everything else my parents were worried about began to fix itself.
I began to excel in taekwon-do like crazy. I enjoyed competing, I enjoyed breaking boards, sparring, throwing kicks and even doing patterns (kata or forms, as they are called in other martial arts). I went from being a student earning C’s and D’s to almost a straight-A student. I also began making friends and my confidence changed and improved. Eventually, I went on to college, but I also kept training. I became a blackbelt about 5 years after starting, and I can tell you at that time, it was like the heavens had opened up. There is something about working towards expertize that the challenges and rewards become that much more. I began teaching classes to people and helping them, do things they never imagined doing on their own. I even designed and taught women’s self-defense courses. I began to develop physically during this time too.
Taekwon-Do was my life for almost 12 years straight. I would do jobs that allowed me to train, I would ignore relationships, social settings, alcohol, anything that took away from me pursuing the ultimate health status. Noithing would get in my way, absolutely nothing! I trained 5 or 7 nights a week in a class, taught classes and spent any free time I had weight-lifting and running. I wanted to be the best I could possibly be. I never felt happier than when I was doing taekwon-do. I felt like a damn stud; maybe I even felt akin to a god (Did I mention that my ego went WAY beyond what would have been considered healthy?).
Eventually, there would be a sacrifice. And that sacrifice came in the way of relationships. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t do relationships very well. I had a girlfriend once that was the first major relationship I had (I haven’t mentioned her in my SARD on this blog, but I did on my last blog). She HATED my love of taekwon-do, but never stated it. She would mention it once in a while and then when she began boning everyone but me, she informed me it was because I never paid attention to her (In fairness, she was right…I didn’t pay attention to much else). Well, this is something I took with me when I met my wife and got married.
My wife hated my affair with taekwon-do more than my ex-girlfriend hated it, but for obvious reasons I felt more obligated to me wife (I’m now doing something, I promised I would never do on this blog – speak about my marriage in any detail, but it is completely relevant to this post). The only difference is she showed me how much she hated it by complaining, making me feel guilty, accusing me of boning other women, and even physically abusing me for doing it. I kept trying to do it, though. I kept trying, because I knew it made me happy. I tried toning it down a bit, but I was making a little money from doing it and I felt like I made a difference in other people’s lives. Eventually, there came a time for me to return to college (I mentioned going to college, above, but I did not mention that I had dropped out to pursue other interests). My wife didn’t want me to return to college, and I had to practically beg her to let me do it. To offer some concession, I promised I would stop doing taekwon-do while I attended. I kept that promise and never did taekwon-do while I finished my engineering degree.
Eventually, after securing employment, I wanted to start another class. I was looking for motivation to try and kick-start my own lagging skills. Conflicts began to arise again and there never seemed to be a resolution, past issues began to weigh-in on the problems of my marriage and I gave it up again. We moved back home, and I returned to a class I began doing taekwon-do. During that time, I was able to obtain my 4th & 5th degree blackbelts. Unfortunately, I had also been destroying myself with the amount of food and beer I was consuming. I began to incorporate all the negative thoughts I was feeling. I had it drilled into my had that I was not displaying the values I claimed, I had it drilled into my head that my love and passion was merely a child’s hobby and that it shouldn’t be a big deal for me to give it up. But the worst thing is that I began to believe I was not the type of person that deserved to be wearing a blackbelt (I took the traits and characteristics as ideals and used it as my code of life), because I wasn’t living up to the expectations. I had also began questioning my life, my sexuality, my entire existence. Nothing was making sense to me anymore about anything. I felt like everything around me was closing in on me and it changed me for the worse.
Now, here I am, about five years after receiving my 5th degree blackbelt, almost 30 years since I began doing taekwon-do, and I feel like a complete mess and failure. Will I ever be able to do the multiple jump kicks in the air that taekwon-do is known for? At one time I could, but now it seems far fetched – partly due to age, but predominately due to my physical being. Will I ever be able to break the boards and concrete that I developed myself to do? Again, it is probably not going to happen at the level I once could, because of age and physical abilities. There is something about it, however, that still pulls at me, it still beckons me to be the person I used to be – at least on the inside.
In the link, I posted above, I saw a lot of good statements, but there is one that really stood out in my mind; the author of the blog stated, “It has taken me almost two decades to accept that my inability to execute the technique of ballet perfectly is not a good reason to muzzle a part of me that refuses to be silenced. No one else was stopping me from dancing all these years. I was my own road block.” And it hit me: I am my own roadblock! I commented to that author, “…This ignites a small flame in me I haven’t felt in years.” And I instantly became encouraged to get off my fat-fucking alcoholic ass and stop my fucking whining like a pathetic little bitch and do something about my fucking life.
Last night, I went for a walk. I knew I had set myself on a path of anxiety when I commented on that blog, but I went for a walk and tried to calm myself without thinking about beer and instead tried to think about what I want out of my life. And truthfully, I don’t care if I am a world class fighter, I don’t care if I am able to perform like I did when I was 25 years old. All I care about is that I loved doing taekwon-do. I promised I would take it up again last night, but instead I woke up this morning and did it.
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, especially since I haven’t done anything but eat and drink for the past few years. But I stretched, I did some calisthenics and realized how much flexibility I lost. I didn’t care, I did the best I could and accepted the reality of my situation. Then I got up and tried a couple of beginner patterns. I felt things in my arms and legs that seemed like a distant memory, but I did them. I am so, so, so, rusty, but I did it anyways. I’m not going to be too hard on myself, I know deep down that I have years of destruction to overcome and it will take time.
But I will come out stronger – physically, mentally, and emotionally.