What do you tell yourself when you start facing the realization you are not good enough for something? Not that you can’t do something. But that you can’t do something well enough to excel, continue and progress.
I am a physically awkward individual.
There is nothing but truth in that statement.
I do a lot of physical activities but I have suffered from doing a lot of physical activities.
Technically speaking my body is pretty much designed to be a box. And you know how flexible and graceful boxes are.
I was in the midst of practicing my martial arts forms today. I realized, not for the first time, how things have changed. When I started martial arts I was almost eighteen years younger than I am now. I was quite heavy. And once I learned what achieving black belt rank in our school entailed I decided I would be quite content at stopping at dark blue belt. If I ever got to that rank.
Funny thing about that thought….
I didn’t know me very well.
Content? At stopping before I was finished? But I did not know this when I started. I only knew I was doing this because others talked me in to it and I was there with my daughter.
By the time I got to that rank of dark blue belt “with a tip” I realized I could not stop there. Because there was more to get, do, achieve.
I had no clue that I had any ambition. Desire. Drive. Self discipline. For that matter, I didn’t think when I started, that I had the energy to do such things in life. To that point I felt that life took all of the energy I had.
But, again, I didn’t know me too well.
I discovered ambition, desire, drive, self discipline. And realized that living life is where you get your energy from. Not what you lose it to.
So I eventually tested for black belt and achieved that rank. And wrapped up in that belt was a bundle of gratitude beyond what I could ever explain to anyone. I don’t owe my life to martial arts. But it was part of the process of living lessons and learning much.
After black belt I thought I would live my life forever happy as a black belt.
Will I never learn? About me?
There are many degrees of a black belt. Ten in our system.
Ten. At the age I started martial arts I would be ninety or older to reach them all.
I have reached 4th Dan. And after earning that rank I told myself….that is quite enough. You never thought you would reach black belt rank. And look what you did.
Weeks ago my little sister asked when I would test to be “a Master”. Which, in our system, is 5th degree black belt.
I told her I wouldn’t be. And when I told her, unknown to her, I became very upset.
She asked why. She is insistent I test so that our five brothers (not to mention the two sisters, including her) would have to call me “Master”.
She told me I had done very well and should be proud of where I am regardless. But her encouragement over the years has always been to reach “Master” level.
Did I think about this after the last test?
And that brings me to today. I was downstairs “doing” my TKD. I do not teach a class, or own a school any longer. Injuries have been an on going curse in my life since 1998. My physical ability to be flexible and ‘get better’ has been hindered by metal rods, metal plates, and broken bones. But I still “do” my TKD. I believe that I spent so many hours, days, and years of my life achieving this that the only way to accurately call myself a “black belt” is to retain the knowledge I have earned. And it isn’t stored in my brain. It’s stored in my body. And for my body to retain the knowledge, it needs constant review. I refuse to give up what I worked so hard for.
Today while “doing” my TKD I became a bit sad.
I thought back to starting martial arts with my very young daughter. I thought of how, even though I was heavy, I had the ability to get better. Lose weight. I marveled at the skill of others and quickly realized that my box self would not have that level of physical skill. But the amazing thing was, I still got better. I improved my abilities to defend myself, and I improved my abilities to be myself. But now….eighteen years later….I am eighteen years older. There is still more to learn. Still more to do. But I don’t have the same chances before me that I had back then, before I got to here.
Without a doubt I am not good enough to test for master level.
From the time I sat down to write this, to now…. I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m still “doing” my martial arts because I don’t see a reason to stop. It is different to not be going to class 2, 3 and 4 times a week as I once did. Can I accept that I cannot move ahead, test, progress… Can I do that?
Is accepting that I have done “enough” a manner of growing?
Can I continue to “do” martial arts knowing I won’t go further in rank? When there are more ranks to achieve?
Does getting better have anything to do with “rank”?
Do I need a new “rank” to feel like I am gaining something for me?
I am still a physically awkward individual. I am still a box. But I know, now, better than to accept an end, or a set finish line. Every finish line I’ve ever seen has plenty of space behind it so you don’t run smack in to a wall. I have to redesign my own finish line. Who set up the parameters for my life’s run anyway?
So I’m working on adjusting my master level dreams to encompass more than a belt. Maybe I need to focus my drive on mastering my life. If I can do that than I can easily accept my physical accomplishments for what they are. I am very grateful for all of the ability I have. I know there are many who would be grateful for a fraction of my physical ability.
When I started this process that included martial arts I never envisioned what I have now achieved.
But I’m not finished yet. I’m not good enough to test again.
But I’m good enough.
And that’s what I have to tell myself. Now I have to go do something. Something else.