Instant gratification! We often want our results quick and easy, without having to put in much time or effort. Isn’t that what advertisers promise us? In Taekwondo training we may want to get to the next level, the next form, the next kick, and the next tournament without thinking about our foundations.
Taekwondo Student Waiting, by Kathryn Lichlyter
Perhaps you've seen the cartoon of the character yelling at the microwave, "Hurry up!" We may laugh at a figure who only wants the fast to be faster. What happened to “better”? But the same is true with the development of our skills in Taekwondo (or anything else, for that matter). We must realize that time, effort, and discipline –not speed – are the keys to advancement.
I have already discussed the dangers of "Black Belt Factory" schools , but I’d like to discuss some ways you can see how your Taekwondo skills are improving your life, even when the color of your belt isn’t changing as fast as you’d like. Here are some things which you may not realize are part of your instruction, but which show that you really are advancing.
- If you feel different standing in a group, your self-confidence is improving. Even if you’ve just started your Taekwondo training, you may feel different in self-assurance or self-awareness. You realize that you are more confident, that you feel you will be able to accomplish what you set your mind to do. This doesn’t make you better than everyone else around you, but you don’t feel that you need to hide among the others any more than you need to stick out from them.
- If you walk to your car at night and feel confident that you can protect yourself, then your Taekwondo work is paying off. After all, the original intent of Taekwondo is self-defense. Even a white belt with only a few basic kicks and punches should be capable of scaring off an attacker. While you shouldn't ignore common sense, and you should never look for an opportunity to use your skills by seeking out an attacker, you should feel confident that you know how to handle yourself in such a situation.
- If you are able to tackle habits and temptations that hold you back, your Taekwondo skills are coming through. One aspect of Taekwondo training is the discipline and concentration that the practice of forms, kicks, and sparring can help to develop. These skills translate into other areas of your life. It’s not unusual for students to find themselves improving in their schoolwork or careers. Others have discovered ways of addressing their smoking, drinking, talking, or eating habits. As your training progresses, you may find yourself thinking, “I never thought I could get better at that problem, but now I see a way to do it.”
- If you can hold your tongue and control your actions when you are insulted, your Taekwondo training is helping. Physical violence may scare, but hardly anything is as intimidating as being attacked verbally. Taekwondo is designed for self-defense, so we are not advocating that you not protect yourself and others when it’s necessary (see more about self-defense situations here). Verbal threats and bullying, however, are tactics usually practiced by people who feel weak and insecure. Bullies want you to obey them the only way they can possibly get you to do it: by emotional pressure. If you are able to compose yourself and walk away, or to handle the situation without violence or verbal sparring, your training is paying off.
- If you find yourself thinking of different answers to challenges in life, your training is working. In Taekwondo you practice techniques over and over again, focusing on improving your skill level and your memory. While you discipline your body and work on your fitness level, you also train your mind to focus on what you are doing and how you are doing it. This can help you every day, increasing your ability to look at situations, tasks, stress, and other obstacles with a more balanced focus.
- If your child's attitude, concentration, or respect for elders and teachers seems to be improving, then your investment in Taekwondo training for your child is starting to pay off. The kicks may still be sloppy and uncontrolled; the forms may lack the precision and discipline the more advanced students show. But if you occasionally hear your child say, "Yes, sir," or "Yes, ma’am," when you request something, you are seeing results. If you believe that you haven't seen this after your child has been in classes for a while, it might be a good to have a conversation with the instructor.
Come on, it's your turn... what do you think? What can you add? How have you known that your training is paying off? It's your chance to share your story!