A recent Sunday morning found me achy from hips to head and a bit bruised in between. Two hours of Tang Soo Do testing left me rather battered and quite aware that fifty push-ups and lots of bodily contact including takedowns and a few kicks to the abdomen from some powerful black belts took their toll on my 40-year-old body. Just rolling out of bed challenged me, and coughing or laughing was amazingly painful. Bring on the heating pad and the ibuprofen (holistic types, advice welcome).
A week later, my pain only a memory, I’m back in the dojang, sitting on the floor for an hour of promotions. I’m finding myself less than thrilled at the prospect of 30 minutes of names being called followed by applause, and I’m feeling a bit guilty about my attitude. The newest members are up front, all in white aside from a few with a splash of yellow or orange across an otherwise white belt. I flash back to my first few months of Tang Soo Do: every punch, kick, and turn took all my concentration and effort. Just landing on the correct foot seemed to take divine intervention. With my coordination, it probably did.
Receiving a yellow belt, that first bit of color to my conspicuously white uniform, was a major triumph. I was on my way, and, more importantly at the time, I wasn’t at the very beginning anymore. I was moving ahead. Fast forward to orange, green, red, and all the stripes in between to this promotion. Red with a stripe. No longer in the first few groups called to promote, I’m now in the last row to be called forward. As my instructor places the coveted stripe on my belt, the first of four before black belt, I warm to the moment at hand and beam with pride.
Quite honestly, the test a few weeks back gave me pause. I was rather discouraged with my conditioning (those push-ups!) and rather concerned about the intensity of the testing itself, especially as I continue to progress. Two-on-one sparring lies ahead: two black belts on one testing red belt, with fresh pairs of black belts swapping in every few minutes. Yikes. But two years ago, so much about red imtimidated me. How would I ever be able to perform all those complicated-looking forms, one right after another, with my coordination? How could I learn to throw people much larger than me, dodge punches and kicks while dishing out my own? How could I learn it all?
Somehow, I did manage. Not somehow. Classes twice a week, some practice at home, an amazingly patient instructor, and two in-home helpers with better memory than I: those played more than a small role. I’m stronger and more coordinated than ever before. My body responds with instinct and confidence — a first for me. My martial arts work and the focus required have certainly aided my ability to cope with the life changes I’ve confronted these past two years. Making new friends on the same path and having the chance to work long-term on a goal with my kids are bonuses. The strength, focus, and confidence I’ve gained? They’re worth the days of aches — completely.