Senior Opinion: My Taekwondo Experience

I trained in Taekwondo for four years, and it is finally time I share my experience with everyone.

Senior+Opinion%3A+My+Taekwondo+Experience

Jake Dietlin, Reporter

 It is finally time that I address the pine wood and colorful belts you all see in my background on zoom. Each one of those belts, whether white or black, represents a major milestone in my Taekwondo career. For four years, I practiced Taekwondo at the Martial Arts USA studio with a group of incredible instructors and hard-working students that made the journey an amazing experience. I joined the studio as a sixth grader and trained several times a week until the beginning of junior year of high school after I earned my black belt. This journey was largely under the radar among my friends due to my running being more prominent, but now I am sharing my Taekwondo experience with everyone.

    The incredible journey began when I curiously walked into the glass doors of my secondary home, my pain, my life. I heard about the studio from a neighbor, and I wanted to give Taekwondo a try. I was skeptical at first. What was this all about? How could this change my life? After meeting with the three instructors, Mrs. Yuliana, Mr Sinan, and Mr. Markey for the first time, I knew that the road to becoming a black belt was going to be a lengthy, strenuous, memorable ride.

    The first forms and specific Taekwondo movements were unfathomable to me in the beginning. Everything felt unnatural and it was quite difficult to remember the order of the movements, much less make them look crisp. As I built momentum over the first three months, I mastered the basic motions and gained some strength. 

    I quickly learned that physical strength is only one part of the process. Determination, dedication, and discipline account for the main part of Taekwondo: the mental side. The studio has a quote on one of the walls that remains the single mantra that motivated me throughout the four years. It says, “A black belt is a white belt that never gave up.” This quote made everything feel achievable for once, and for the first time, I truly believed in myself and that I could attain black belt status. Not only can this quote relate to martial arts, but the same concept can be applicable to many areas of life where a major, far-fetched goal exists. 

    After a couple of years training at the studio, I wanted to strengthen my connections with the instructors, younger students, and the sport itself. I volunteered every week over the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. The saying that “teaching is learning” finally became true for me, because helping the younger kids allowed me to recognize faults in my own form and master the minor techniques. From this point on, I centered my focus completely around Taekwondo and practiced every day to ensure that I was prepared for the great task ahead.

    The day finally came. After eleven belt tests, hundreds training sessions, and an amazing four years, I walked into the studio for the final belt test. Once the four-hour test began, there was no messing around or cracking jokes like we usually did in the humorous atmosphere at the studio. It was the time to demonstrate what we had worked incredibly hard for over the past four years to Grandmaster Lee. Grandmaster Lee has trained in martial arts for the entirety of his life and continues to work hard in his seventies. He is an idol for me that deserves my utmost respect, and I made sure to give my whole effort that day. Although I was ecstatic the moment Grandmaster Lee handed me my black belt on May 11th of 2019, my satisfaction was short-lived, because I know that there is always another rung of the ladder to climb and that there is always somebody better than me.

    These four years have had a lasting impact on how I think and act. Taekwondo has taught me discipline, respect, and tranquility in the most pressuring moments. My instructors were mentors that always pushed me and always taught me new things about the dynamic sport of Taekwondo. I learned that success does not come from the highs and physical achievements, but it is built when one works hard on the days that it sounds least appealing. Throughout middle school and high school, my running has always overshadowed Taekwondo, but it is important that I reflect on this journey that will forever be a part of me.