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.
I may have mentioned a time or two that I’ve had a devastating knee injury and two surgeries (and am still not counting out a third). 🙂
An injury like that changed not only my physical focus, but my mental one as well. I realized how much I had both lost and gained when I started taekwondo training again in January of this year. A dormant part of my brain re-awakened, and it was both strange and wonderful. Whether you’re a martial artist or not, the takeaway is that if you’re in a rut, you may benefit from going back to something you enjoyed earlier in your life or learning something new that stimulates and challenges you.
My story of the weirdness and joy of re-awakening my black belt brain is in this month’s Martial Journal. Click here to read.
I’ve worked in leadership development for ten years, but I’ve learned just as much or even more about leadership “on the mat” in my martial arts training. In martial arts, we don’t wait until someone is in the job of a leader (i.e., a black belt) to help them build their leadership skills.
Dear Reader: For the remainder of 2021, to continue celebrating the release of my first book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, I will be posting a monthly bonus chapter. While these stories didn’t make the final cut, they were still important moments in my life and in my black belt journey. Enjoy!
[Note: This would have occurred between chapters 28 “Black Belt Candidate” and 29 “Sucker Punched”]
“Up-downs,” Chief Instructor Alex said calmly, widening his blue eyes and smiling wickedly. It was the first Monday in April, the first class day after my bo dan test, and our Sabumnim must have decided he was going to whip us into shape, black belt style. We had two new bo dans (myself and a younger female student), a teenage bo dan who recently tested for black belt and would likely be awarded his new belt in a few days, and Eric, a teenage black belt who would be testing for second degree in the fall. You would think a class of only high-ranking students would be deadly-serious, mature, and determined. I had apparently forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager.
My martial arts friends in person and online have really come through for me as my first book was released into the world. Their support doesn’t surprise me, though, because martial arts people look out for their own. We like to help each other spread the positivity of what we love so much.
To Listen: Click here to listen to my interview with Andrea on The Martial Arts Woman podcast.
Click here to listen to my interview with Jeremy on Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio.
You’ll learn about my first career, my favorite martial arts action stars, how I got into martial arts, and the powerful healing qualities martial arts has given me for my mental health. You’ll also hear my “light Texas drawl” that I mention in Chapter 29 of my memoir.
You may be wondering how I ended up in this predicament in the first place. Take a look at this post (“POP! Goes My ACL”) for the detailed story of how I injured myself and what followed in the immediate aftermath.
The short version is I tore my ACL doing a jump kick, and not even a good one at that.
I’m a second degree black belt. I could have tested for third degree black belt at the end of this year.
I had to relearn how to walk after my July knee surgery. When you can’t walk very well or even stand up in the shower, all that fighting, jumping, and sprinting nonsense goes out the window for a while. It’s hard to feel like the athlete you were before your injury. It’s depressing to feel out of shape. It’s frustrating to go through so much pain as you heal and gain strength.
Recovering from a major injury when you used to do a high-level sport can feel overwhelming and a bit daunting.
I come from a family of creators who enjoy challenging hobbies. My dad is a painter who is especially skilled in oils and portraiture, and he was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. My mom likes doing difficult and complex knitting patterns. My brother is a professional musician.
I hit stuff.
Kidding aside, any martial artist knows they have to put in hours and years to hone their craft. It’s not a matter of mindlessly parroting or mimicking motions their Sensei or Sabumnim does. You have to develop both the mental and physical intelligence required to perform and improve upon your martial art. You have to understand why you do certain things.
“Playing to my strengths,” as we say in the corporate world, may very well have cost me my ACL. Let me explain…
I work in healthcare leadership development, so we arbiters of euphemisms rarely use the word “weakness.” We dance around “opportunities for development” or “areas of growth.” I involuntarily shivered when a client said she wanted her team to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) so they could “learn about their strengths and weaknesses.” My goodness, I positively had the vapors. Technically, as I gently hold her, the MBTI looks at preferences rather than true strengths and weaknesses, but…something about the word “weakness” was just too real for me.
Turns out, working on your weaknesses can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
[Note: this post contains some vague-as-I-could-make-them spoilers]
Like many other martial arts enthusiasts and children of the 1980s, I was very excited to spend the final weekend of August bingeing both seasons of the breakout hit series “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. A friend, who is also a fellow taekwondo black belt, and I had watched the first season together when it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018. We loved it and marveled at how clever and heartfelt it was.
Much has changed in two years, both on a national and global scale, and also for me personally. I knew I’d be entertained by watching the series, but I didn’t realize how deeply therapeutic it would be.