Last night was one of the best classes I’ve had in several weeks. I had been a little discouraged lately because classes have consisted mostly of me and little kids, maybe a teenager or two if I’m lucky. Being the only (or one of the only) adults in class for long stretches of time can be discouraging and makes me forget why I signed up in the first place. While I enjoy watching the little ones flop around I get hungry for a challenge and intellectual stimulation. I’ve also been dealing with a slew of grown-up stressors, and it’s been very tempting to tumble down the slippery slope of skipping class.
Apparently the Universe heard my wish although it didn’t start off great. I dragged myself to Monday night class after seriously considering staying home and curling up on the couch, got annoyed at a cut on my knee that decided to start gushing blood once I slipped on my snow-white dobok pants (nothing a little Shout spray can’t remove), and I had to take longer than usual to get my mind out of the real world and into the dojang. Last Friday I could barely keep it together. Trying to learn my new form palgwe pal-jang was not helping. I’ll add it to the Poomsae Series once I actually learn the damn thing.
To my delight there were five black belts (three adults, two teens) and an adult bo dan in attendance in addition to the two brave little green belt regulars who do a great job keeping up with the “big kids.” Our instructor was a seasoned sixth dan whose quiet soft-spoken nature makes his demands seem all the more sadistic. We kicked, slid, punched, and jumped for the entire class. Try doing 360 roundhouses all the way across the floor, but don’t switch sides—just do one side all the way across the room…see what I mean? I was spotting the wall like a ballerina doing an unholy number of pirouettes. We were all stumbling into each other by the end. He just watched us with a smile and made us do it again.
When I had a moment to catch my labored breath and mop my beet-red face I smiled. I’ve made a lot of progress and forgot to tell myself! My spin kicks have finally gotten respectable (at least on the right side), and my hook kicks shoot out with a satisfying pop. My balance is more solid, and my speed has improved. Even when I’m running low on steam I can still maintain decent technique and focus. Sometimes when I’ve gone on a short hiatus from physical activity such as swimming (I’m talking weeks, not months) I come back stronger and refreshed. I haven’t missed weeks of taekwondo—only a class here and there, but I’ve been less mentally engaged and my non-taekwondo physical conditioning has significantly dropped. In light of other things taekwondo just wasn’t at the top of my mind.
I don’t recommend going AWOL on classes to see improvement. Once in a while, though, the best way to get over a plateau is to take a deep breath and take a break. Don’t forget to come back, though! Last night’s class was a good reminder of why I rejoined the ranks, how much I love doing taekwondo, and how much I really need it to keep me going. It makes me a better person inside and out, AND I was able to justify eating a leftover hot dog after class since I had burned all those calories.