I used to train regularly 3 hours a day, 4 times a week and increased my training substantially as the competition grew wider. I felt the Dojang was my second home. I spent majority of my afternoons there and even my Taekwondo classmates used to tease me “Don’t you have a life? You’re here almost everyday”. But I took pride in my discipline and with a smile on my face I replied: “I know, isn’t it crazy?”. And seconds later I was on the mats practicing my kicks time and again. The truth is I didn’t have access to video games or any other extra-curricular activities, the Dojang was the only alternative I had to escape the daily routine . Many of my friends outside of Taekwondo were facing their teenage dilemmas, such as zits, girls, driving licences and hanging out at the mall but all that paled in comparison to the excitement of kicking and punching.
My days were marked by the same routine, going to school, training, having a Slurpee at seven eleven and riding the train home with Daniel Kim (one of my first training partners and long time friend).
|Daniel Kim standing in defence|
The main topic of our discussions was religion, whose religion was better and who was more right between Jesus and Mohammad. Our competitive nature didn’t leave us even after long and extenuating training sessions. There were days that we offended each other so much that even though we took the same train home we refused to speak to one another. Fortunately, Taekwondo represented a great way of reconciliation. God didn’t take sides but watched as we kicked the crap out of each other to the point of unwavering respect to give up.
Friendships like this one have lasted to this day, and despite distance and obligations we keep in touch on a regular basis. Interestingly, as the battles of competition grew more intense so did the friendships and closeness of our team. The entire year of training was intense, but summer was my favourite time. While majority of competitors tended to take summer off and indulged in long breaks, the dedicated ones stuck around and trained even harder and more frequently.
Morning and afternoon sessions included running to Sir Winston Church Hill park. The first time I looked up at the hill, it seemed so big and intimidating that I doubted myself, but my senior teammates were doing it and I didn’t want to be left behind. It was a struggle at the beginning but I managed to conquer the hill that summer and every summer thereafter. The hill was not the only challenge of those afternoon outdoor sessions, we also climbed 50 steps and finished up with a few laps around the park. It was tough, we were drained, wheezing and out of breath but we had each other to push and encourage and at the end of the day, we felt great.
Unfortunately, an athletes journey is not only composed of highlights but also moments of defeat. Sometimes coming back from competition where I had endured a devastating set back or loss, and an entire year of training was down the drain , I felt my drive was abandoning me. But we have goals and a commitment to ourselves to achieve what is within our reach. There is nothing wrong with being frustrated, angry, upset and disappointed but I don’t think any of these feelings are strong enough to lead us astray from our ultimate dream.