Many years ago I started taking martial arts with my oldest daughter. It was a great time in my life to do so. I was open to learning. And I was open to growing. Physically and emotionally I gained strength and power. It’s likely that 98% of the lessons learned were not physical in nature.
During the process of making martial arts part of my world I also met people who would become part of my world. I developed a very close friendship with another mom who started taking lessons with her children. We set ourselves on fire for martial arts. We would yell the loudest with our Kiap (sp). We would count the loudest during jumping jacks (after I got to the point where I didn’t feel like crying during them). We threw ourselves in to being at class religiously. Practicing at home. Learning our Korean words said in English with our particular county’s accent. We never sounded Korean. But by golly we knew what the words meant when we butchered them.
Along about the end of our first or second year of training another woman had joined the class. Class was four times a week for our first year or two. We were very good about attending class. The other woman? Not so much. She might go weeks without showing up. Then she would show up for a week or three before a test. A test that if you passed you ascended in rank.
It didn’t take us long to start a gradually growing bitterness about this other woman putting in a small fraction of effort to attend class and participate. Who would then show up the last week or three, test, and advance in rank.
We were slowly over the year working ourselves in to a full blown bitter binge.
One day we were standing outside of our dojang (training hall). I remember the evening. It was summer so it was still light outside after class. I remember the light post. Who knows, maybe that was symbolic. No, it just happen to be there. While we stood there talking we brought up our subject of disdain. And while we stood there talking about our discipline and dedication and what we felt we earned, while another didn’t seem to do anything to earn it, another lesson came to light for us.
Our achievements, or lack of, depended on us. And what we did.
What someone else did, or did not do, had no bearing on our goals. On our efforts. On what we did. Or didn’t do.
Our conversation changed that night. Our attitude changed that night.
What we got out of our efforts was our payoff. There was no reason to criticize someone else’s way of doing something. We didn’t know her whole story. And all we should expect of someone in that dojang was their best effort while there. We owed that to one another as students in the same place at the same time. But what we did with our class taught lessons was up to us outside of the dojang.
The greatest part about this lesson was that it was something we tripped over on our own. We realized what we were doing and made our own corrections. Which was often a lesson I taught my students years later. Though I would refer to this regarding physical techniques the beauty of it is it transcends physical. And is applicable to ever aspect of your life. I can tell you what you’re not doing right, but one day you will notice what you aren’t doing right. That’s the first step. Noticing what needs changed, or corrected. The next step is to make that correction. When you are doing that on your own, you are taking control. You are enabling yourself. You are teacher- and student- in your life. I always told my students that what they learned in the dojang only served them well if they took it outside of the classroom.
Almost every single lesson I ever learned in martial arts I could apply to my life outside of the dojang. Discipline. Respect. Patience. Courtesy. Perseverance. Dedication. Loyalty. Every single one of these serves me well to this day. Add to that the confidence, assessing skills, preparedness skills, and kicking skills….. I have noticed that the best skills in martial arts are the best skills for life.