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What Tae Kwon Do Training Means to Me

What does Tae Kwon Do Training mean to me? I could answer that question by talking about my teenage years and how much I wanted to be like the heroic women i saw depicted in movies and books: women like Princess Leia of Star Wars fame, or Riley from the Alien movie series (or, more recently, Lara Croft), women who used both weapons and their bodies to defend themselves and others, and even to save the world. But I'm not going to. I could talk about beginning martial arts training halfway through graduate school, when my confidence as a scholar--particularly a woman scholar--had reached a low ebb; and how training gave me a way to vent physically some of my frustrations regarding my professors, my fellow students, and a system which fostered out-of-control competitiveness and paranoiac insecurity. But I'm not going to talk about that either. Or, I could talk about how much I had wanted to take dance lessons as a child, and how I did take gymnastics in high school, and how Tae Kwon Do, with its emphasis on balance, precision, and controlled movement, connects for me with both of those loves. But that's not what I'm going to talk about either.

What I am going to talk about is how the practice of martial arts gives me a wholeness to my being that I rarely find elsewhere. It demands much of me physically, to be sure, as I work to kick higher, punch harder, use my hips in my moves, fine-tune my hand and feet positions. But it also involves me mentally--I am always focused on what the next move is, or concentrating on improving my current move, or thinking about my overall speed and timing, or trying to remember the name and number of moves of whatever form I'm currently doing. And, finally, I also find something spiritual in the martial arts--especially in the striving to do more than I thought I could, and connecting with other women, both in our school and elsewhere, who are also training, knowing that we share many of the same purposes and goals. That bonding is deeply satisfying.
I find that when I'm training it brings together within and through me the4 physical, mental and spiritual aspects of myself. It centers me, unifies me, completes me. When it's going especially well, it gives me a sort of buzz, a sort of natural high that's quite extraordinary and that I rarely experience elsewhere. When I'm training, I'm totally in the moment--not distracted or torn apart by attempts to multi-task. I am whole.
Surely this is why I keep coming back to martial arts training. Having earned three green belts in three different schools, and having, along the way, worked in Shorinryu karate and Ninjutsu as well as Tae Kwon Do, sometimes I'm dismayed that I keep starting and stopping, never getting beyond a certain point. At other times it simply seems that despite whatever barriers might rise up to distract or prevent me from training, ultimately there's something insistent about the martial arts that just won't let me go, that calls to me again and again and again.