I’m back in school!

After a year of private lessons I changed my training plan and started joining regular taekwondo classes at the beginning of March. I could have kept going with private lessons because of how deeply beneficial they’ve been (plus my coach and I get along great), but I knew I would become too dependent on them. It was time to cut the cord.

Our dojang just happened to be changing locations at the beginning of March, so that was a perfect time to transition. The location is great: well-lit, spacious, and close to my home.

I was actually nervous before my first class. What if I didn’t have the stamina to keep up? What if I hurt my knee? What if the other kids didn’t like me–just joking, but it was nice that my partner went with me for moral support.

I was equally nervous about the nature of my first class– a black belt class on Thursday evenings focusing on throws, sweeps, takedowns otherwise not specified, and some ground fighting. Takedowns are not new to me, but ground fighting is. I was able to quiet the perfectionist part of my brain whining, “But what if I don’t get it RIGHT the FIRST time?” although I was still concerned about my knee and my still somewhat lacking stamina.

Thankfully the Thursday night teacher is a very kind man who gently explains everything (while he’s teaching chokes and scary throws) and decided to go with some basics on my first night. He’s still kind, but the pace of the class has picked up considerably. The most recent class had a warmup of lightning-fast falls, rolls, pushups and jumping jacks that left all of us, young and “more seasoned” (including my partner, a 5th degree black belt) sweating and out of breath. This class is scary, but it’s also really fun. I even found some cuts and bruises on my body later. What is old is new again.

Meanwhile on Tuesdays I take a traditional taekwondo class. It’s been sparse, but that instructor and I get along really well and are able to talk about more technical details with fewer kids around. We’ve done a lot of kicking, hand strikes, and some forms. He gives me helpful corrections, and as someone who has had serious injuries himself, advised me to “trust” my knee. I can be cautious with it, but I don’t really have the excuse any more to hold back. I didn’t do great on flying kicks with a running start (that was more of a timing thing than a knee thing), but I rocked it with jump roundhouse kicks, one of my favorite kicks.

I still feel out of shape and out of practice, but it’s quickly coming back. Another thing coming back quickly to me is my taekwondo community, which I sorely missed (even though I didn’t realize it) while I was out and even during my year of private lessons. Last Friday I went to a low key traditional class with one young green belt boy. It was Spring Break, so almost everyone was gone. We were at very different levels of skill, but the instructor made it work, and I took practicing the boy’s belt level form as seriously as he did. As I was chatting with my head coach and dojang owner after class, the boy and his father stopped in front of me.

“Thank you for practicing with me,” the boy said very sweetly. His father probably prompted him to say it, but it seemed sincere. (I forget that the black belts seem pretty cool to the younger kids.) That melted my heart, and I thanked him in turn for letting me practice with him.

It’s good to be back.

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