How Taekwondo Influenced Me

I found it difficult to begin writing this essay – not because of a lack of ideas, but my own perceived lack of progression that makes it occasionally distressing to look and reflect upon the past. I know in the objective part of my mind that this isn’t true, but in all my life, my biggest enemy has been my own intrusive thoughts.

I wanted to begin with how I started in taekwondo. I always thought martial arts was cool, for lack of a better word. The abilities that people possessed of such great agility and strength reminded me of every character with superpowers I envied in the books and movies that I used to immerse myself in. The real reason I got started at Authentic was because both of my cousins attended, and before I had even started, they had received their black belts. Being a competitive child, I of course wanted the same and started attending taekwondo classes when I was about 12 or 13.

As time progressed, I began to feel a little different than everyone else. Everyone my age was at a much higher level than I was, and everyone at my level was younger. That thought stayed with me for a while because I was uncomfortable and intimidated by all the higher level black belts that I ended up being in classes with a few years later. Again, my own thinking got the better of me. Though I may have been doing fine physically, I was unhappy with the way I was forcing myself. I found myself retreating to the adult level classes when I thought high performance was too challenging for me. There were many times I didn’t want to go at all, but I kept on because I was more afraid of the regret I would have if I quit. However pitiful that type of motivation may have been, it kept me from giving up.

I think the moment that I wanted to push through that fear of failure began once I graduated high school. I was able to put to practice the things I had improved on over the years – balance, control, and strength – as well as the perseverant mindset that I was encouraged to have. After having been at the same level for over a year, I thought it might have been time to advance. Be that as it may, it wasn’t until the following year, this past summer, that I made the official decision. I held off on deciding to do the black belt test for so long because I thought I wasn’t comparable to existing black belts. I was afraid of what I might be expected to be once I had gotten to that level or that my achievements would be seen as lacking.

Through years of taekwondo, I’ve slowly built up confidence, though I am still short of being sure of myself.  My desire to deserve to be at the level I am has also resulted in fear of failing to meet my own expectation. In this essay, I hadn’t mentioned much about how taekwondo had specifically influenced my life, particularly because I am still trying to overcome fears that have overtaken me for a long time.

This isn’t to say that my life hasn’t been impacted in the last 6 or 7 years. I’ve enjoyed going to taekwondo over the years because I felt taken seriously by my instructors, which as a teenager was refreshing. But their sincerity also meant that they expected more from me than my regular teachers at school did. Over time, it made me realize that the expectation that I thought would be taxing and damaging instead lead to me wanting to improve and being proud when I did. Taekwondo has pushed me to confront my weaknesses so that I can better help myself and others. My current aspirations are to primarily develop those parts of myself that I find weak – my fears of failure and pain and my lack of confidence – and become an individual who can more easily adapt to change and criticism.

My intent to improve my ability to adapt is linked to wanting to be a better leader. Having been placed in leadership positions, I often felt unprepared and unsure; irrationally afraid that I’d be found out to be some sort of fraud. Overtime I began to realize that it didn’t matter whether or not I thought I could do certain things and fulfill certain leadership positions; it was only necessary that I willed myself to do it. Taking responsibility for my choices has always terrified me because it felt like my mistakes would be a brand I would carry forever, but my acceptance of responsibility is fundamental in learning to adapt.

In some areas of my life, I’ve found it easier to step up to the position of an initiator, particularly when it seems that there isn’t anyone else doing the job. But rather than waiting to be forced into that position, I’d like to be the kind of person who can be brave enough to initiate even when others are more qualified. Furthermore, I’ve more recently decided that I want to be a person that maybe someone, someday could aspire to be. Growing up, many of the people I looked up to always treated me as a child, perhaps because they thought I couldn’t understand the complexities of reality. I felt I wasn’t taught certain life skills, and subsequently felt hindered. I had hoped that once I became older that I could be the one to explain why people think and feel the way they do to those who didn’t understand yet. I wanted to treat kids as competent, and I do believe that the more we treat them as mature, the more they will begin to behave that way. I think a lot of kids act out because the adults in their lives don’t try to understand them and consequently, they may be unaware of how they should be acting. My confusion as a child and as a teenager is still slowly being resolved now, and if I can help others to navigate out of that disoriented state, I think that what I’ve learned up until now will have been worth something.

I anticipate that my role as a 1st degree Black Belt would be to act as a bridge between children and the authority figures in their lives. Though I have worked harder to be more authoritative and be taken seriously, I will always want those younger than me to know that I am on their side too. I can understand their sense of isolation from the adult world, and I want to encourage them to become more open, more aware, and more resilient. Although I have felt in the past somewhat ignored from people I wanted to learn from, I have gained a lot from those who led by example, and I very much aspire to become that kind of person. In my life, whether it be inside or outside of Taekwondo, I hope to be an example of all those I’ve learned from.



Essay By C.L.

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