A little over four years ago the idea of me doing Tae Kwon Do, or any martial art for that matter, wouldn’t have entered my head. It wasn’t really “me”. That is, until a good friend of mine persuaded me to give it a try. It turned out to be one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me (no exaggeration!).
But before I explain, let’s take a little trip back in time. Six years ago (literally almost to the day, funnily enough. I know because Facebook helpfully reminded me) I received an email from my then long-term partner, a guy I’d been with for almost sixteen years. Our relationship had been breaking down for months and he’d pretty much gone AWOL at this point; this email was his way of telling me it was all over. Classy. On one hand I’d seen this moment coming and on the other, I never thought it would (and certainly not via Hotmail). Without going into huge amounts of detail (I’ll save that for another time) I felt like he’d wrenched my heart out of my chest, and thrown it over a cliff. To put it mildly.
I went through the various, traditional stages of grieving, but got stuck at anger. Very stuck indeed. It felt like I was angry every waking moment of every day, and I ran out of ways to try to deal with it. Two years after the break up and still pretty angry (thankfully not every waking moment, by now), I was discussing this all with a good friend of mine, who happens to be an experienced and talented martial artist. It was her suggestion that I try Tae kwon do (it turns out that she thought it would help me with my anger, though she didn’t explicitly say this at the time. A gentle and wise move). I genuinely did not think anything would come of it, but thought it couldn’t hurt to try; I trusted my friend’s instincts and agreed to go to a few classes with her, to try it out.
I’m not super fit by any means, but I used to be pretty good at sports (football, hockey) and find it relatively easy to pick up routines at exercise classes. I struggled with tae kwon do for the first few months, feeling more uncoordinated than I’ve ever been - it was a bit of a shock to my already flimsy ego. At times I thought this was more of a challenge than I really needed. However, I also liked the idea proving to myself I could stick with something, however difficult I found it.
A combination of being part of a fantastic, supportive TKD club, with an amazing instructor, and the realisation that I could go for gradings and progress through the different levels (status!) kept me going back to Tae kwon do. Added to this, friends of mine had started to comment that I seemed a lot more confident; I was even occasionally referred to as "kick ass" or "bad ass", which I secretly kinda liked. For the first year or so I felt constantly challenged; each and every class took me outside my comfort zone, enough to stretch me, but not enough to scare me off, and it was after about eighteen months of training that I realised that tae kwon do is, indeed, "for me". In fact I love it.
Having practised for four years now, mostly consistently, I enjoy that I am still challenged in each and every class. I have got more involved in the elements that I was most wary of (sparring), and it has helped me reconsider how I view my own personal power. This is all alongside continually developing techniques, learning new skills and even finding my shouting voice!
I am certain I will return to the subject of tae kwon do in future blogs, as it has become an important part of my life (just ask my friends and family). It has helped me with far more than overcoming anger/stuckness; it has reminded me that I am not afraid of a challenge, that I can persevere even when it's tempting to give up and go home, and that it's most certainly worth it.
If this blog has inspired you to look into Taekwondo please visit this website for more info: http://www.uoltkd.co.uk/