What I Just Learned From 5 Black belts…


About 15 months ago I started taking a local Tae Kwon Do class. I didn’t realize that it’d turn into being the most challenging workout both physically and emotionally that I’d ever experience. In my next testing I will be one step closer to obtaining a green belt.

I just got done with an especially enlightening class this evening because after we worked on perfecting certain forms, we were asked to gather around our Master Instructor (a 5 time Tae Kwon Do black belt) to talk for a few moments. He told our group of 20 or so that it was time for each black belt in the class to share words of advice & wisdom that they had learned over the years. It just so happened that each piece of advice shared pertained to everyday life. The first person he asked to speak was a 21 year old black belt named Emily.

I’m not sure how long Emily has been taking Tae Kwon Do, but I’m blown away by her level of maturity and confidence. I’m sure there’s a direct correlation between that and her martial arts journey; I also have the feeling she started very young. Her words of wisdom were beyond her years. She said that it’s all mental. So often we tell ourselves that we’re tired, or at our limit. What we should be telling ourselves is that we have more left in us. We can bend down lower, we can kick a little higher, we can keep pushing through the pain a little longer. She said if we all keep pushing ourselves a little more with each exercise, it will add up. What we tell ourselves is so important. Our bodies will be taken farther with the help of a positive mental attitude.

The next black belt to speak was our Master Instructor’s son. He said the most important quality we can possess is respect. Respect is contagious, and you will get what you give. Your attitude never goes unnoticed, and when people view you as a respectful individual, they’ll treat you that way in return. Respect is often viewed as a lost virtue…respect for adults, peers, and oneself. That’s why it’s extra important to be the example.

Then Emily’s Dad spoke. He told us that there will always be someone who is faster. There will always be someone who is more flexible, stronger, or athletic. There will always be someone who’s more talented. However, there doesn’t have to be someone that will work harder. It doesn’t matter where you’re at with your physical capabilities, be the one who always gives it your all. Your effort is more commendable than your natural God-given talents.

Another black belt who spoke had been training as long as our Master Instructor. His advice was that he always thought once you obtain your black belt, you plateau, and you’ve reached the point where you learn everything there is to know. He told us that the opposite is true. He still continues to learn some 30 years later. He sees people achieve their black belt and stop training because they think they’ve learned it all, when in reality it’s a life-long journey of physical and mental training.

Finally our Master Instructor spoke, and I was honestly close to tears as he did. He told us that there’d soon be a boy from the youth class joining our adult class. The boy is developmentally challenged and has been doing Tae Kwon Do for 3 years because it was always his dream to become a black belt. Our Master Instructor explained the physical challenges that this young boy faces on a daily basis as he struggles to complete even the simplest exercises. He said, “I think you should all look up to the boy who will be joining us. He has faced more physical hardships than any of us can imagine. Tonight I heard complaints of sore muscles and fatigue. Get over it. There is always someone who has it much harder than you.” Wow. It was really hard not to become emotional.

I’ll be honest, before class tonight I thought about how tired I felt and wanted to skip my class. I’m so glad I didn’t do that, and decide to persevere and attend class every week. Not only are the physical benefits great, but it’s amazing to be surrounded by people like that to learn from. I really do recommend martial arts classes if you like a challenge!

Thanks for reading! -Laura 🙂


Feature photo credit: Jason Briscoe on unsplash.com

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