“Kick the board,” my instructor demanded. A side kick. What I had seen in Kung Fu movies was now my real life reality. An exciting, yet frightening reality.
“You can do it!”, my instructor, the Sensei shouted. I heard encouragement in his voice, but my own inner voice questioned, “What if I hurt my foot?” I would be embarrassed if I failed. There were too many people around, watching me. Their watchful eyes made me worry more about my performance, than my own personal success in executing the technique.
I took a deep breath, and echoed the Sensei’s words in my mind: “You can do it!” I kicked the board, snapping it crisply. I felt empowered by hearing the snap and the crack of the board yielding to my bear foot.
The exercise was part of my Tae Kwon Do practice a few years ago. I was testing for my green belt. The broken board on the floor was testament that I had passed. I was proud of myself. In my hesitation to risk splintering my foot, and hearing the Sensei’s encouragement, I learned that my potential is greater than what I would have normally believed. I believe we all often under estimate our capacities and strengths.
As a young girl, I wasn’t very motivated in participating in physical activities and cared less about engaging in competitive sports. I occasionally played basketball, but I was usually afraid of getting hurt.
Training in martial arts revealed to me how wrong I was.
I practiced Judo while in college. I did so only because a sport unit was a degree
requirement. I elected a martial art course more out of curiosity than for any serious
commitment or interest.
As a new Judoka I was shy, fearful. Again, I was afraid of getting hurt.
My first surprise was to learn that Judo means “gentle way” or “flexible way”
Who would associate martial arts with gentleness? That wasn’t what I had seen in the movies, or what I had heard from people.
My Sensei taught his students a very interesting concept: A Martial Art is not just a sport; it is also a philosophy. Successfully practicing a martial art demands self-discipline and respect for others. Advancement in this practice requires self-confidence and self-control. Balance of the body and mind. After that comes the learning of techniques.
There was one particular discovery in my martial arts journey. It happened when practicing Judo. It seems that students tend to favor one side of their body than the other, and that side is typically associated whether they are right or left-handed. In fact, most of the students are right-handed. I am right-handed but my Sensei noticed a strength that only an instructor could identify: he saw that the left side of my body, which I’d considered my “weak side”, was actually as powerful as my right side. And I became quite successful with left-handed techniques.
“A good Judoka will have both right and left-handed throws in their arsenal,” another Sensei had said.
My martial arts experience has been very useful in my personal life. I am no longer
afraid of getting hurt. I don’t want to be hurt, but I am not hesitant to strive for
triumphs merely due to fear of being hurt.
I’ve also learned that those we believed are our “weaknesses” may be only misconceptions, and can actually turn into strengths.
Now, when it comes to challenges, I like to remember:
I can break the board.
I can use my left side.