My favorite student in the dojang is Thomas*, an orange-soon-to-be yellow belt. I haven’t had a chance to train with or coach him but I’ve been quietly watching his progress over the past few months. I’ve watched his eyes squint and his brows furrow in concentration as he performs blocks and strikes. Last night I smiled to myself when he breathed a sigh of determination before sparring with one of our black belt instructors.
Thomas is not a precocious six-year-old or an awkward preteen. He is a tall thirty-six-year-old man, and I can’t wait for him to join the advanced classes. I am starved for adult companionship. Other than my instructors and a twenty something red belt I’m usually the only adult in my classes. Unlike Brazilian jiu jitsu, which is literally crawling with machismo, taekwondo tends to attract the kid set. The children range from space cadets who barely know where they are to quite talented little athletes. While they don’t connect with taekwondo on the deeper spiritual and intellectual levels as the adults do they do reap the benefits of confidence and discipline. The ads on the internet aren’t lying. Put your kids in taekwondo. But you join as well.
According to the black belt instructor Thomas is determined to become a black belt instructor himself. I see his hunger, perseverance, and a willingness to endure pain and frustration to do what he loves. I see a kindred spirit. I really really hope that he don’t give up after green belt, which seems to be the Bermuda Triangle of students. Just once I’d like to hear someone else’s back crackle during warm-ups. I wish I had someone else to roll my eyes at when the teenagers want to “jump over stuff” as a training drill. It’s weird being the one of the few students who can actually drive myself to class.
Thomas is testing for his yellow belt at the end of the month. An older man in the advanced class will test for his black belt in October. I hope that the obligations of work, family, and life in general as an adult don’t overpower the love and dedication for something that has obviously made their lives more meaningful.
Don’t be afraid to start taekwondo or any other martial art as an adult. They were originated and practiced by adults; there’s no reason why today’s adults can’t practice them. If your passion is mountain biking, baking, or painting go do it. Don’t let work and mortgages and the ever present demon of “time” stop you from enriching your life. Besides, why should kids have all the fun?