What Challenges You?

In December of 2016, I signed up for classes at a dojo 10 minutes away from me. Previously, the only martial arts experience I had was a couple weeks in my high school gym class. There was a Tai Kwon Do dojo in my town growing up, but I was doing dance classes. We couldn’t really afford to do both, and at the time I liked the idea of being a ballerina more than breaking a piece of wood with my hand. Which just seemed painful.

As an adult, I toyed around with the idea of taking classes, but they were either too expensive, on the wrong days, or the descriptions just didn’t fit my needs. But the stars aligned in late November of 2016 and I signed up for a free introductory class, just to get a taste. I was hooked. I immediately signed up for a six month membership, bought a gi and made the commitment.

Me as a Baby Ninja. It took me so long to figure out how to tie that shiny white belt, I’d do it at home before class.

Fast forward eighteen months or so, and I’ve come a long way from that person in the white belt. Instead of one class a week, I’m taking four. Instead of relying solely on these classes for my exercise, I’m ramping up my regime outside of class.

These classes inspire me to do more than I ever thought I could. I always swore I’d never run anywhere. Now, I’m working my way through Couch to 5k. I hate push ups with a passion. I now have a personal goal to be able to do 100 of them. From my toes, not my knees.

There is no mastery with Martial Arts; there is always something new to learn. Something that is going to test your endurance, your patience, your strength, your flexibility. Mentally as well as physically. While my dance background certainly helps, these are not classes I can phone in. I spend as much time dealing with my frustrations and inadequacies as I do learning the techniques.

For my last rank test, there was one technique I simply could not get. I struggled with it for a solid month. I was shown a couple short cuts that could get me the end result, but for the test I needed to be able to perform it as is. No short cuts allowed. I was coming to hate this technique. While I knew mentally that not all techniques were going to resonate and everyone had at least one technique that haunted them, it didn’t stop me from wondering if I could pass the test.

Finally, the class before I tested, I got it. It felt like a huge hurdle overcome, and a major victory for me. One that was made all the sweeter because the instructors knew how hard I’d struggled with this, and recognized how hard I worked. After each test, we choose a form or technique and demonstrate it to the rest of the class. I chose my Nemesis.

We all tend to do the things that come easily to us, because it’s a quick way to get an ego boost. Sometimes we avoid the challenge, because it’s simply too hard, or frustrating, or we just don’t have the time to invest in muddling our way through it.

Sometimes, however, it’s worth the challenge. Doing something easy may be a quick ego boost, but doing something difficult gives you something else: confidence, strength, and passion.

I may have been given a white belt, but I have earned every belt and stripe since. These accomplishments have inspired me to go above and beyond what I ever thought I wanted, or expected of myself. I’ve got my eyes set on a brown belt right now, which is just three more tests away. After that? Well. Let’s just say I’ve always looked good in black.

What have you done lately to challenge yourself?

White, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Blue, 1st Degree Blue (ie, that priceless strip of green electrical tape on the blue belt).