“Any New Year’s resolutions?” my instructor asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly at the end of class.
“To not write 2014 on my papers,” remarked one of the teenage black belts with a  smirk. Even though his smart-assotry gets old pretty quickly I giggled at that one. My instructor rolled his eyes and bounced his question back to the rest of the class.

“To get my black belt,” said a classmate proudly. Damnit, he took my idea! My mind had wandered off to my usual internal hippie daydreams like meditating more, being more mindful and present (ironically I wasn’t), start swimming in the early mornings again like I used to, juicing when I what I really want to do is get curly fries at Arby’s. I had forgotten what was so obvious and looming for a few of us:
Black belt. This is it. This is the year.
Holy crap.

Now for those of you following along, you know as well as I do that first dan is just the beginning, not the end-all-be-all pinnacle of training. That’s where so many people, including many taekwondo students, get it wrong. Color belts are basic training; you don’t stop learning (or training although many do) when you achieve a black belt. In fact, that’s when you’re learning really kicks into gear along with leadership expectations and giving back to your little taekwondo community. There are several levels beyond first dan, and they take decades to attain. Even then the journey is never complete.

“2015 is going to be a good year,” our grandmaster chimed in as he padded quietly to the front of the room. “It’s important to set goals,” he said, glaring at each of us in the eye. This is a man who has run a successful business for over 40 years, written a book, and achieved many prestigious awards for his contribution to taekwondo and the community. This is a man who is living proof of the power of goal-setting and focus. We all shifted nervously and made silent promises to ourselves to step up our games.

I usually don’t make new year’s resolutions, and I sometimes even take a break from goal-setting…for a little while. I do frequently put my desires out to the Universe, toy with my expectations to see if they line up with what I truly want, and work my butt off if so required, I mean inspired. Things tend to work out if I don’t stress about them too much.

So here are my new year’s resolutions for taekwondo:

-To stop hopping during 360 roundhouse
-To cleanly and precisely execute a turning back side kick (not lifting my leg like a dog who’s about to…well, never mind)
-To be able to run through all color belt forms by memory
-To be able to accurately teach and correct other students (emphasis on accurately because I have sometimes taught them my bad habits!)
-To improve my left side spin kick to match my right side, which has vastly improved over the past year
-To really execute a flying side kick the way God and nature and all the taekwondo masters intended
-To finally nail a flying turning back side kick instead of getting confused and just doing a half-assed ballet tour jete
-To pull my partners in closer during takedowns (I tend to twist their arm out at an awkward angle)
-To memorize all the hand-to-hand techniques on both sides
-To accurately execute my one-steps….and bonus if I can memorize all the past one-steps
-To improve my speed, stamina, and strategy during sparring
-To break a board with a ridge-hand strike and with my nemesis the spin kick
-To get yoga teacher training during the summer during all this*

-And oh yeah, to get my black belt

*Summer yoga teacher training seemed like a sure thing for a long time. I have the school picked out, the money saved, and time blocked off on my calendar. With the black belt test and necessary training suddenly becoming a reality it forces me to reexamine how and where I will be directing my energy this year. It may be the right time to add this goal, or it may not be.

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