I tested for my Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do in December 2009. I wrote this essay for Master Lessard, who was one of my instructors. Patrick, Meaghan and I started off as his students, and when he moved to Chung Won Tae Kwon Do, we followed him there. When Patrick and Meaghan tested for their first Dan Black Belt, they had to complete 200 double kicks on the heavy bag, without stopping, and write a 1000 word essay. Even though it was not a requirement for me, I also completed those tasks. I recently found this essay and realized the lessons still apply, maybe even more than ever.
Four years ago, on September 22, 2005, I tested for my orange belt. This was the start of the journey that has brought me to today, a week away from testing for my black belt. Along the way, I have learned a lot about who I am and what is important to me.
When I started training, as a white belt, I was in the last row with Patrick and Meaghan ahead of me. I soon learned that it was not my place to tell them to work harder or to pay attention. I was there for my own training. So I think that being a black belt means that you must take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else and that it is not selfish, but self-care to do so.
When Mrs. Lessard (then Miss Santucci) taught me how to do a low block, she told me to set it up by the bump on my arm where the muscle is. I told her that I didn’t have that bump on my arm. I do now!! So I think being a black belt means discovering the potential that you have and working hard to make it a reality.
A couple of weeks after I started training, I came into class the night after testing. Lisa Druilliard was there with her new orange belt, so I bowed to her, as we were taught to. She bowed, and then hugged me because she was so excited to have someone bow to her. So I think being a black belt means that being humble and respectful acknowledges the greatness in another person, without diminishing oneself.
Lisa played a role in another important moment in my journey to black belt. One night during “no contact” sparring, Lisa’s shin connected with my left foot, bending my toes back. I stopped in shock and pain, and then for what I’m sure was the first time in my life, I kept going. By the time the class was over, my foot was bruised and swollen. I went home, propped my foot up on some pillows, and put ice on it. I was strangely proud of my first “sports-related injury”. So I think that being a black belt means that the bumps and bruises that you get in life are mere trophies that you look at for a while, and then put away as you move on to the next challenge.
When I started training, I wanted to get what I saw Patrick and Meaghan having, even though I wasn’t really sure what “it” was. One thing I knew for sure though, I wasn’t going to spar or break boards. There was no way I could do that. When the time came for me to have to spar to pass a belt test, I wanted that belt more than I didn’t want to spar. (I still do!!!) I was starting to discover what that “it” was that I wanted so much. So I think being a black belt means that being focused on a goal helps to overcome the challenges along the way.
When I tested for my green belt, I chose a hand knife as my board breaking technique. I had seen both Pat and Megs fail this test on their first try, and this was on my mind. They both helped me to practice and get ready for the test, and on that night, I broke the board with my first try. In that second, a list of priorities rearranged themselves in my head, and I knew that I could not, would not stop now. I collected my board from Mrs. Lessard and sat down. I was shaking with the amazement of what had just happened, and not really aware of anything around me.
I felt Patrick’s arms around me, and he told me that he was proud of me. Meaghan was right behind him and did the same thing. I had tears in my eyes, and let them fall down my face. Master Lessard told me that I wasn’t a beginner anymore. I was an intermediate and working towards higher belts. The tears flowed again. Another student looked back at me and said “Congratulations.” He asked if I was crying. I nodded my head and he said. “That’s okay.” So I think that being a black belt means that sharing special moments with your family is the best feeling in the world, and family is not only who you are born to, but who you love.
When I tested for my blue belt, my mom was able to be there. I got my counter turning kick on my third try, and I had to spar with Mrs. Lessard. Someone asked Mom if I was like the little girl that she remembered. She replied, “Not even close.” So I think being a black belt means that while you can’t rewrite your history, you can write your future story. I am not that scared little girl who couldn’t say no, and who was afraid of her own shadow. Finding my yell has helped me to find my voice. Doing 200 double kicks on a heavy bag has shown me that I can set a goal and I feel ready for the challenges that will come my way.
During the last four years, I have shared many milestones with my Tae Kwon Do family. I know for sure that I would not be the person I am today without all of these experiences, and I really like who I am today! As I continue to train and push myself out of my comfort zone, I feel blessed and grateful for the support of Master and Mrs. Lessard, as well as Master Chung and Master Lee.
Of all of the tasks that I have set for myself before testing for my black belt, 200 double kicks on the heavy bag, sparring class. This essay, by far, was the easiest one. Through this process, I have learned about hard work and balance and friendship. It has encouraged me to be a positive role model for others and to encourage each person to live up to their own potential in the way that best suits them, and I will always maintain the tenets of the “Foot, Fist Way”
Even though it has been a few years since I trained at Tae Kwon Do, the friendships and lessons have followed me and impacted the way I live my life.