When I first started I heard people call martial arts a way of life. I wanted what they had, how they trained, how they moved, how they behaved…but I didn’t know how to get it. The last part of the word Taekwondo, Do, means “the way” and that’s been the best part of it for me. I did make it a way of life. Now I understand martial arts training as a system that provides as much as the practitioner is willing to take on. It is more than a physical discipline. The postures and breathing develop a stronger body. That’s what I wanted when I started. If I’m honest what I really wanted was to look better and slimmer, more fitting with society’s ideal. I thought that alone that would be enough. My practice delivered, but over time it has seen me through peaks and valleys with my levels of fitness. I thought that if I looked great on the outside, I would be happy. Turns out, I had some work to do on the inside, too. I’m still working. I’m thankful martial arts also offers a philosophy to govern my behavior toward others and towards myself. The lessons in acceptance, flexibility, non judgement, presence and overcoming limitation that are learned on the mat have served me every single day in my life off the mat.
So, I stuck with it. This is what I’m doing now…
I’m a 4th degree black belt certified with the Kukkiwon, the Korean national academy for Taekwondo based in Seoul, Korea. I’m a member of the Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors and the Worldwide Association of Female Martial Arts Professionals. I started training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu a few years ago and want to earn my black belt. I’m a blue belt. That’s a long and steep learning curve. But because of what I learned about myself in Taekwondo, I know I can get there.
I’m a recent graduate of the Mindfulness Fundamentals course through Mindful Schools, and I’ll be graduating from their Mindful Educator Essentials course soon. I took that up after a Violence Dynamics course with with Sgt. Rory Miller. He said mindfulness was the key to all of this: “Skills, principles, drills- everything you teach has to be safe enough to practice. It takes minutes at a time resulting in hours of training and repetition to get the most basic skills- sensitivity, structure, power generation and stealing, targeting, exploiting motion, tactical intuition, … on and on. Then you have to be able to use those skills in a dynamic net, all of the skills playing off of each other and do it when you don’t have any preparation time or any safety net…You and your students need to know what you are actually doing and, more importantly, what you are not doing.” He was, as usual, wise in his advice and that’s a rabbit hole I’ll never regret diving down. The world hasn’t looked the same since working with him. I’ll continue to train with him and study his work, he bridges the enormous gap that I have between martial arts practice and the reality of violence. That’s where most of my interest is now, principles based training and teaching.
2017 will mark 20 years since I first started teaching martial arts, 21 years since my first class. I managed 3 different studios then opened my own independent training center in 2010. It’s now a thriving business serving a rapidly growing area just outside of Charlotte, NC. My business model is unique because of my unconventional commitment to no contracts and engaging curriculum design. I’ve found a way to teach martial arts respecting tradition but recognizing the broader benefits of taking the lessons learned on the mat and bringing them to everyday situations in the classroom, social, or business setting. I’m currently advising the development of a martial arts program to work with underserved areas of my community so they can benefit from participation in my program regardless of special needs or economic status.
People enroll themselves and their children in martial arts programs around the world for many different reasons. I’ve seen and experienced a broad range of those benefits in myself and in my students and peers. Here’s the short list of ways I’ve benefitted. Martial arts instills a lifelong love of learning. A course of action, a philosophy of living. I’ve discovered that it’s more than physical fitness, more than self defense. It is a profound way to rewire our brains so that individual behaviors are transformed. I teach growth mindset, and I believe this is true. Life is intense. For a long time I was afraid of that, that my heart would be overwhelmed with the intensity of a wholehearted life. But because of my practice, I know that my heart can be with a wide range of experiences, even very challenging ones, and I can stay steady and true to myself through it. It’s given me confidence in my heart and allowed me to connect to my life.To me, that’s meant freedom. Which brings me to why I continue to work. It’s a way to encourage people to use their voice, follow their heart, find their own freedom. “If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” -Toni Morrison