Recently my Female Instructor (co-owner of my TKD school) posted a two-parter blog about her Tae Kwon Do journey. As my Life now was reborn after I took this leap, I empathized and decided to write mine down. Now of course, this is the slimmed down version. :) But a version none the less.
I've always had a strong personality. To very summarily start this journey, I had fallen into a depression of sorts. After years of a very social gal being secluded by turning in her interesting fast-track Archaeology career into a stay-at-home Mom; fighting cancer with forced isolation from my own baby and a lengthy fight with insurance for coverage; my parents, brother, and sister all moving away; overweight insecurities; and a true sense that I was done before 30; followed up by a slight case of baby blues and then extreme stress of our new business (combined with zoning, property lawsuits, depleted funds, and ordinance/neighbor issues), I was left taxed--to say the least.
To be completely honest, our marital areas, of course, were 'taxed' as well. I'd fallen into a hole. A very deep well with no flashlight. I'd begun to lose friends. I was angry and sad. I never wanted to leave my house. I knew I wasn't providing the best example for my girls. They were the one area that provided rays of light through the darkness. Quite honestly--brutal honesty--the only reason I couldn't give up and just die were my two precious miracles. Kiera and Peyton. No one else could say anything to make a difference. I knew I couldn't fail--we Robertsons are hard-wired for success, so I kept going professionally as well.
Summer camp sign went up on the corner near our venue. We didn't sign up then, but the sign had caught Kiera's eye--she'd wanted to try martial arts. That Summer she hit horse camp, art camp, Mad Science camp, dance camp, gymnastics camp... Everything but TKD camp. The next February, I gave in to her requests to try Martial arts at the spot in my neighborhood. She was 5. It was an instant match.
I watched Kiera light up, learn new things, feel confident. Smile. P-nut was too little to even walk. Now a Tiger Cub, she's grown up at Pflugerville Tiger Rock. Kiera's enjoyment of something that exercised her body and mind made me think that I could try it too. I was 190 pounds on a 5'6" frame. I hadn't done anything physical other than a few weeks here or there in my living room of Kathy Smith's Kickboxing and other lame dvd workouts--where no one could see me--in years. When I got up off of the ground, it was an effort. I didn't like to even walk from one end of the venue to the other--I was out of breath.
I remember finally telling Mrs. Barkley that I really wanted to try TKD, but was afraid I'd fall down. :) (Motto now is: if you fall down, that means you were really trying hard!).
As kind and gently as Mrs. B is, she smiled and assured me that many adults feel the same way. "Just try it!" and her signature laugh made me feel like I could. Being a white belt is truly the hardest part of being in TKD. Learning the etiquette, the basics, trying something outside of your comfort zone. That is truly the toughest part of being an adult student. I even see black belts that aren't used to being the Senior Student, stumbling over basics with regards to starting and ending class. :) But the other Adult Students ALL started as white belts. And we remember. We remember that courage it took to say, "hey, I haven't done anything like this ever, or in a really long time, and now I am sticking myself out there".
White belt was truly the toughest, as my weight was another obstacle in moving the way I had remembered my body moving before babies and cancer. I decided right away that the weight had to go. Yellow belt happened over the holidays, and with PTO and Chamber of Commerce duties, combined with holiday events, I missed several classes and could not test. So yellow belt lasted a bit longer. Then I finally hit green and: Sparring. :)
I hear many adults say that they are afraid of or not fond of sparring. I never felt that way. I love the "chess game" of a sparring match. Particularly Tournament Sparring. Strategy is amazing when you combine it with physical prowess. Combine the different abilities, both physical and rank-dependent of all students in class, and you have a great test of skill and control. I love Sparring. I am always amazed at how each of us can pummel each other and smile :) How teenagers have taught me not only technique but patience and respect. Great group. We teach each other. There is no peer pressure or bullying amongst our group. Only encouragement and education. I love our adult class. Our instructors create an environment worthy of success, and each person on the mat embodies the Tenets of Tiger Rock TKD.
Honor, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Courage, Community, Strength, Humility, Knowledge. I would only add Patience to such a great list to Live by. Add this all to a great work-out and a camaraderie with laughter and shouts of, "Come on! One more! You can do it!" And you have the perfect place to be--and share with your children--for Mind, Body, and Spirit.
Tournaments. For my first tournament I was a yellow belt. We were all VERY nervous, having never been in this situation as adults before. I found out after the first one what I had already known about myself, but had either forgotten or lost bits and pieces of along the way--I like to win. Who doesn't like to win? But I like to win it all. :) Well. My first tourny, I did. I got all 1st place trophies. I was amazed. Here I had given up on myself in many ways, and had tried something new to discover I was a champion!
AS you can imagine: it carried over into the rest of my Life. Kiera was progressing as a Junior. Doing well at learning how to navigate her own waters. A 3rd and a 2nd place. Then her first 1st place. Last tournament she hit 3 1st place trophies out of 4 events. The next belt... We just kept hitting all the available opportunities. Free Design, Board-breaking, ECAS (adults)...Why not?! Another opportunity.
"Hard Work Pays Off" Is my very favorite mantra. It replaced "This Too Shall Pass". I feel more positive. I got back my very best friend, who I had neglected in years of depression. I was able to branch out into my community. I have become successful in many different ways (Awesome Points!). Re-discovered my self-esteem. Found my Honor. While I am still looking for Humility :), the tenets are tattooed in my soul right next to the 4-way test for Rotary (1. Is it the truth, 2. Is it fair to all concerned, 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships, 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned.). I LOVE that my daughters will grow up amongst the best in Pflugerville. A truly great town already, the people involved in our TKD school are a notch above.
My cute little girls will have lessons in respect, self-control, self-defense, and courtesy several days a week. Where else can you get that level of education? The Barkley family and all of the instructors at Pflugerville Tiger Rock are infinitely patient, knowledgeable, and kind. They create a second home, a second family. This, to me, is priceless.
I've had periods in time where I've been too busy to hit enough classes. I've hit walls with regard to memory, or physical skill. You can choose to quit, or power through. Quitting is for quitters. "You know what happens if you don't try? Nothing".
And now I've reached black belt, and Kiera gets hers next cycle. It is interesting how different people see this accomplishment. Some see that as the goal. One of my favorite quotes is, "A black belt is good for holding up your pants," -Bruce Lee. I do see it as a great marker. A great starting place for the rest of my journey. I admire watching my instructors that are closer to my parents' age than mine and thinking, "hey! Where'd that come from?" as Mr. B kicks me in the head way too fast for my brain to catch up. The push-ups completed before the rest of the class. Mrs. B's innovation for free design forms. The recollection of several different forms, as I tend to forget my last one as soon as I learn a new one! :) And of course, the ninja reflexes of the younger Mr. Barkley as he demonstrates what that kick "should" look like. All something to work towards with no pressure other than what you put upon yourself. All a family environment.
This journey has been an amazing one. I felt comfortable in Regional Competitions--mostly pulling in 1sts, some 2nds. I think I got a 3rd somewhere in there. So I went to my first Worlds' confident. A brown belt. Been doing this a while... "I got this". Especially sparring--always 1st at Regionals. The Regional champ! No prob. OUT! What? Lesson learned. The defeats are just as beneficial as the successes. My first Worlds left me with two 1st place out of 4 events. Scratched on board-breaking. Out first round of sparring. Traditional form and Free-design form were my strength that day. The warrior that got 2nd in forms (1st in sparring) patted me on the back and stated that she'd never gotten less than 1st in forms, and this was her second Worlds. She congratulated me, and I told her the same with sparring, as she had earned 1st in that category. I was happy for her successes. I can't wait to see her again this year. More over, I was so very excited to see my colleagues, my friends, my Pfamily in their successes and near-misses. THAT is the other component to our school. Our fellow students. Amazing people in all levels. The friendships--not rivalries--of the adult Tiger Rock Program is to be commended.
So here I sit--at the door to my TKD Journey. I've merely written my Prologue. Next year I hit VIP (age classification). This year I compete with teenager black belts at Worlds' :) Bring it, ladies. Because of my TKD journey, I have built my own confidence to a level where I am unafraid to: Speak before an assembly of politicians and leaders in our community. Wage wars against large corporations on behalf of neighbors who once stood against me. I am the President elect for Rotary for the year 2015-2016. I have rappelled off of a 372' building. Because of allowing myself this amazing sport, I have found a stress reliever, a home, and a total fitness program. Because I took that step to try, I have been rewarded with a Life I may never have Lived. Many have said that it was within me all of the time. But I needed a key to unlock that gate. And for me, this key was the little TKD school on the corner of Windermere and 1825, and the amazing people within the building, on the mat.
People laugh and tease about my countdowns and status/check-ins about TKD class. I love it. It means they are aware, they are listening, and one day, they may find that this school, this sport, this Mind, Body, and Spirit 'Fitness' program is the perfect place for them too. I will always see my journey as Sacred, Beneficial, and My Own. Thank you to the Barkleys. THIS, in a nutshell, is why I love my TKD Journey.