Last night was my first taekwondo class in a week, thanks to winter weather and other scheduling conflicts. I was a little nervous about how I would hold up, but I was also excited and ready to be back into my normal training routine after too many snow days and too many snacks.
It was a small class due to spring break absences—it was just me, a male bo dan close to my age, a teenage black belt, and two little newly minted blue belts. We had our usual pre-class chats of the latest aches and pains and recommended movies to watch. For a moment as we ran around the room to warm up and my legs refused to pump any higher I longed for my electric blanket, glass of wine, and bowl of popcorn, but I soon forgot about my creature comforts as my body warmed up. To my delight I was even more flexible than ever, and we did my favorite barre exercise to finish warming up our legs.
Oddly enough, the teenage black belt’s reported ear infection suddenly (and conveniently??) took a dramatic turn for the worse just as we began some conditioning drills across the floor. Panting and gasping he flopped to the floor, collapsing whenever he tried to pull himself up into a push-up position. We showed him some sympathy but didn’t coddle him and moved right along with class as he sat down to rest. I had an ear infection and the flu when I was a few years older than him, and I still managed to drag myself to my college dance classes. Just sayin.’
I suspect his sudden delicate state was less of a truly debilitating physical condition and closer to a similar stunt I pulled when I was a child taekwondo student—Mom was driving us to class one winter night, and mysteriously my brother and I were both suddenly struck with blinding headaches and nausea from the blinking Christmas lights we saw on the houses along the way. Neither of us had any problems like that before. I wasn’t sick; I just didn’t want to go to class and that sounded like a plausible excuse! Funny, now that I have the power to choose whether to attend or not I look forward to taekwondo class all day.
Now that we were down to four my instructor decided that it was the perfect opportunity to line us up with the four kicking bags for individual practice. We instinctively lined up the bags and ourselves by height like a row of martial arts Russian nesting dolls. For the remainder of class we worked on jump side kick and jump turning back side kick. What I really enjoyed was my instructor’s encouragement to pay attention to the picky little details. It’s amazing how a tiny shift of the foot here, a tiny adjustment of distance there, and slowing down when needed can make a huge difference in the execution and effectiveness of the kick.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe you’ll be perfect when you’re a black belt,” my instructor said jokingly. Then he raised an eyebrow and smiled at the bo dan and me on the end. “And that won’t be long for you two.” We giggled nervously and returned to our bags.
I still ended up on the couch with the electric blanket and a bowl of popcorn (no wine—just watered down Gatorade), but I felt much lighter and happier than I have in days. Sunny days are around the corner!