In a previous post I zeroed in on one adult who is braving the taekwondo waters. This time I’d like to share some of the most useful things I’ve learned along my martial arts journey and can hopefully provide some guidance to other adults tkd students.
1. You’re not in as good a shape as you thought you were. Unless you’re a regular Ironman competitor it’s likely that you’re along the spectrum of not-bad-for-your-age to so-out-of-shape-I-get-winded-looking-at-stairs. And that’s okay. Taekwondo will whip you into shape whether you like it or not. Make friends with Epsom salts, naproxen, heating pads, and ice packs. Be prepared to explain suspicious bruises at work.
I didn’t need to lose weight, but I have noticed that I have a more toned upper body, leaner and meaner thighs, and lower ab muscles popping out where Pilates had tried in vain. My stamina for the short bursts of sparring is still weak, but at least these days I’m not absentmindedly walking out the dojang door with half my sparring gear strewn across the floor because I was too exhausted and brain fogged to even notice.
2. You’re never too old to learn and you’re never too young to teach. I hadn’t had much interaction with kids before beginning tkd. At first attending class with the teens and younger children was a jarring. I was frustrated by their whininess and inattentiveness. These days I actually look forward to working with the teenagers. I might be the only adult in their daily life who talks to them like a normal human being. One of my favorite sparring partners is a teenage black belt who patiently coaches me and lets me try out new tricks on him. I find myself turning to kids young enough to be my own children for advice, especially the six-year-old who threw me effortlessly to the ground during one-step practice. (Really, he did). Besides, some of the things they say are hysterical.
3. Priorities may have shifted during flight. Some people start tkd as a way to bond with their kids. Others start it to get in shape or learn self-defense. I started it to save my life, which I chronicled in a previous post. Besides a more fit body a surprising bonus is a more fit mind. I have a clarity, focus, patience, and emotional maturity that I’d never experienced before. I learned to laugh off (and learn from) mistakes and not put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. I pay more attention to the “big rocks” in my life and less time on all the other stimuli and clutter.
4. Your passion can become your purpose. During a team building exercise at work we were asked to describe in three words or less how we would want to be remembered. Without any irony or self-righteousness I simply replied “enlightened.” That’s it. That’s the purpose of this blog—to help others gain confidence and inner peace. Without even trying taekwondo has been an excellent vehicle for quieting my mind and comforting my heart. It’s seamlessly become a part of my life, and I want to share that (and yoga) with others.
5. You see the benefit of the journey, not just the destination.
Getting a black belt isn’t the hard part. Being a black belt carries the weight. This rings true for anything that is important in life—raising healthy and happy children, maintaining physical health, finding inner peace, serving as a positive example to others. Exceeding your limits, overcoming doubt and anxiety, and learning something new every day may be less tangible benefits than a sweet side kick, but it’s just as powerful.