I wanted to do martial arts when I was 14. We had no money for it. I started tae kwon do in April of 2010. It replaced my regular gym membership which I couldn’t stand anyway.

My migraines are gone. By the time I added a third and fourth martial arts class a week, I stopped having that headache every two days out of the month. Never laid up in bed anymore! I haven’t had a migraine since August of 2010 :)

There are other things I’ve learned that I never could’ve guessed. They seem like small lessons, but they’re not, once I saw how well they’re applied to other walks of life.

First, I didn’t think I needed compliments. I thought I was above that. Needing compliments seemed… kinda needy. In the beginning, there were times I left class feeling like the whole night was a failure. (Always worse at night I should say, maybe because of fatigue?) This was especially true in classes when I tried a technique for the first time. Then I had a night or two that when trying something new, I had a word of encouragement or a small compliment, and I left the studio feeling so much better about looking like a dork!

Secondly, I feel the same way if I can train beside people who are light-hearted or at least willing to make eye contact. I have the most fun when my classmates and I can make fun of ourselves and laugh a little. The fuddy duddies who won’t look me in the eye bring the mood down fast. Not sure how to reach those people.

Thirdly, I see a leap in progress after I get away from the training for a while. When the studio is closed for Christmas break, I don’t work out nearly as much. I might practice tkd at home or do yoga. When we travel and visit with family, we think and do entirely different things then we usually would. When I get back to class, something always seems a bit different. My balance is better or a certain kick is more controlled. Just like studying for a test plants seeds, you still need to sleep in order for the understanding to grow roots. People who study all night don’t test as well as those who sleep on what they’ve read. (I already knew several years ago that travelling gets me out of a stressful situation, out of the habits of my obsessions, and I come home understanding better that time passes and solutions present themselves. Or maybe the problem just goes away.) Getting away from the training floor lets the muscle memory take root. Then I’m better at giving attention to other things that need work.

Also, just like I can’t do math in front of others, memorizing the tae kwon do forms has been difficult to do in front of people, especially when it’s a very small class. The fewer students in class, the more attention I get, then the more self-conscious I am. One day a year ago, it was just me, the teacher, and one other student in class. I had a lot of trouble remembering anything of the form I was told. I went into the bathroom, did the form one time, and I had it :) Likewise, working on techniques at home and especially yelling with the k’ihap as aggressively as I should, I go back to class noticeably better. The k’ihap creates its power through confidence, confidence that often needs to be found in private. When that happened, y’all should’a seen how much my hook kick improved.

The last lesson, for now, is in my emotional reactions to these challenges. I had a bad day a week ago. I have been very run down. Starting a swimming class has given me one more source of anxiety. I am respectfully afraid of the water. I can swim, but I’m certainly not used to it, and it’s very tiring to start a new sport like swimming. Learning new things makes people wake up more in the worry hours of the night, so people lose sleep. Also, I’ve been feeling anemic off and on for three months. My diet had gotten really predictable eating the same 10 foods for the last year. With the bad nutrition, I was dragging myself out of classes, sometimes 7 hours of workouts a week. So last Thursday when I got kicked in the shin, I felt it down inside the bone. I had already forced myself not to cry earlier in the hour as I had other things on my mind and was feeling really emotional. I have tried to give myself permission to cry in these situations, but then I’d have to kill everyone in the room, and it wouldn’t be easy. So I control it. I’ve felt this emotion in class when I first started 2 years ago, and from what I learned the first time through it, it means I’m about to make progress.

Having said all that, I’m on a short break from tkd to focus on Krav Maga, taking supplements, and eating much better. (There is a ridiculous amount of iron in blackstrap molasses.) I plan on going through the basic Krav testing in April. After that, I’ll return to tkd.