Posted Mon 23 May
6 comments so far

Almost four years ago, well, three and three-quarters, two leaflets came through our door. Two new classes starting up in the village, both of which took my fancy. Being the involving parent I am, I asked all my progeny if they wished to join me. At which point, they asked me the distinctions between the two classes.

How did I explain it? One was slow-moving breathe-and-muscle patterns, the other was kicking and punching and fighting. Of all my three offspring, only one showed an interest, and that interest wasn’t in the slow-moving breathe-and-muscle patterns one. In case you haven’t got it from my description, the ignored one was Tai Chi.

The other, as it happened, was Tae Kwondo. So second male child and I went along to our first lesson, which was the second of the just-opened TKD school. We missed very first one, if I recall correctly. But hit most of them since then. But I am getting ahead of myself.

You see, the thing is, I am not by any definition a natural at this sort of thing. Sure, I could play squash, I used to, decades ago, run, but this was different. Not only hand-eye coordination, but hand-foot coordination, and hand-hand-foot-foot coordination. But I, and second male child, enjoyed it, we really did. One class a week, all good fun. As ever the bumbling hacker stumbling along.

A few belt gradings on, still there, despite Κασσάνδρα thinking I wouldn’t last. I mean, me, of all people, having to bow, take instruction, all the usual things that, well, I am not very good at. But you watch the seniors, your instructor, and you give them respect, because, well, they deserve it. They earned it.

And after these few belt gradings, we started to do the workout and sparring class. Now that wasn’t easy. It still isn’t, but that is I always push myself further. Sparring. Actual contact fighting. Light contact mind, but even so. And the hardest part of that? I am not sure how to explain it, perhaps getting over the embarassment of it. Of moving. Whatever social constructs I had in my head, abandoning them. Moving. Got. To. Move.

And still we enjoyed it. The work and sparring adds another dimension to the traditional, classwork of patterns, linework and the like. And I got stronger. And I got fitter. And my stamina increased more and more. (Still haven’t got rid of the belly, godammit, but am lighter than I have been in years. And when Κασσάνδρα decided to take up running again, and I joined in after she had done a month, I could even do that. Easily. This….surprised me.)

A few more belt gradings on, and of the twenty-four odd who started with me, there were maybe half a dozen left. New people replaced them, time goes on, a few more originals leave. At this point, there are three of us there from the start. Myself, my second son, and another boy from his school. And we are progressing. I can see progress in myself.

But I am still, and won’t ever, be a natural at it. These days, I do four classes a week, and have to work hard at everything. Absolutely everything. Sure, I am faster, but not fast enough. Sure, I can stretch, but my box stretch is not 180°, and likely won’t ever be. But I push it, I keep trying. But I watch the others, who are naturals, and marvel at what they can do, and am happy for them and their awesomeness. I bumble onwards.

And eventually, as happens, I ran out of colour belts, and was up for my black belt. Now, I have to re-read that myself. Me. Up for a black belt. Me. ME. Each belt is a sign of progress, and to me, that is the sign of ultimate progress. Standards are high, very high, in the schools I train in. My instructor, the chief instructor, the new(er) instructors are all fantastic. I also wouldn’t want to let them done. Nor myself, but even so, all said and done, it is still just me.

As I type this, I have heard, earlier on, that I passed my black belt grading. I passed it. That makes me unbelievably pleased. I did, also, get a Distinction in my grading. 86%. I shall have to spell that out in case you missed it. EIGHTY SIX PERCENT. Me. I am…so very, very happy. But even so, in the coming times, I will still have to work at it. And never stop, running faster to even keep up with the walking pace of the others.

But I made it. It was a long time, and that long time taught me that if you want something, time is what it takes. I am, as I said, lighter. And I see all these diets promising weight loss quickly. And I scoff, as take it easy, a slow, steady downward pace. Build it up, work for it. Take you time.

Perseverance. One of the tenets of Tae Kwondo. Tae Kwondo. Of which martial art, unbelievably to me, I am a black belt.

And I give my thanks to all my instructors, in particular Mr Smith, whose class I started in, and who has trained me all the way to my black belt. To Mr Lapthorn, whose exacting standards we all have to live up to, and always fall short. Or I do. To all the students, gone, new and old, my thanks for the fun we have had, and the more we will have, and the friendships forged.

But me. I am a black belt now. And I am proud of myself for getting here. I still can’t quite believe it. How did that happen then?

Easier from others

I know I won’t ever get it from there

  1. Marc, this was really good reading, my story too…..I still hope to come back and carry on the story with you, but finances at present dont allow that :( ….well done again, it’s been a long road and a well deserved black belt x

    Mon 23 May, 10:08PM

  2. Huzzah! You’re through the foothills now and about to start the climb to base camp. Keep your eyes on your footing, but keep the summit in mind. Go to your edge, every time. That’s all we can do.

    I best start those Aikido classes…

    Robbie Bow
    Mon 23 May, 10:14PM

  3. Briliantly told Marc. Love it.
    You worked really hard and deserve it.
    (And thank you for your kind words of praise.)

    Tim Smith
    Tue 24 May, 7:04AM

  4. Congrats Marc. I’ve never seen you fight apart from the infamous Van Dyk/camera/pool incident but sounds like a lot of hard work went into getting your belt. Quick question though, would you have got 86% if you had to spar with a girl? You’d have had to drop a few percent to stay a gent!

    Sarah Withers
    Tue 24 May, 5:47PM

  5. i love you soo much :)

    jamie berid
    Thu 26 May, 3:47PM

  6. Well done! I keep meaning to start something like this, but eh, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

    Fri 22 Jul, 12:53AM

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