Dear Tae Kwon Do,
You are a form of martial arts that I knew very little about prior to April of this year. But in the last three months, you've worked your way into our family, especially to into the heart of my Dear Son.
"Ki-hap!" shouts DS as he throws a punch into the air in front of him, his eyes steady, focused, and as serious as a six-year-old can possibly be.
DS was invited to a birthday party at a Tae Kwon Do school back in April. Like most boys who like to imitate martial arts moves and hi-ya his way around the house, he was happy and eager to attend. At the party, I knew within ten minutes that DS was going to really enjoy this activity and would be interested in taking lessons himself. We then met with one of the masters of the school and learned about its mission and philosophy.
"One, sir, two, sir, three, sir, four, sir, five, sir, thank you, sir!" shouts DS as he does his jumping jacks and ends with a super-springy 90-degree bow and back to upright position.
So we signed DS up for six months of lessons to start in May, as a beginner white belt. Sure, the Reading and Self Discipline Logs are helpful, although it is my personal opinion that children need not be rewarded for things they should be doing anyway, but we dutifully recorded down his accomplishments and watched his belt grow black stripes. But what really started to grow was DS's intense desire to follow directions and do the right things at lessons. Let's just say that he had to cross all his Ts and dot all his Is--a beneficial compulsion in this instance. Inside and outside the dojang, he was two different persons.
"Tae, Kwon, Do" shouts DS as he throws three punches in a row with alternating fists.
If you knew DS, you'd know that he is quiet, reserved, and observes more than he speaks. He is often found straggling behind my pantleg so he can hide part of his body or face as I try to get him to say hello to someone. And when he does say hello, you can barely hear him. His passive nature has always been a worry of mine, because I can so easily imagine, having seen it with my very own eyes, how his peers could take advantage of his timid personality. And he won't fight back. He just carries on, but I don't know what he's feeling inside.
"Courtesy, Tae Kwon, sir!" shouts DS as he moves his fisted arms in uniform positions with the rest of the students to the master or instructor as prompted.
But in that dojang, DS is loud. He shouts with a confident,
"Five, six, seven, eight!" shouts DS as he finishes counting after the instructor's "one, two, three, four" while doing warm-up stretches.
After three months of lessons, DS had his first testing to be promoted to the next belt. It was a ceremonious affair. Children performed their form steps and self-defense steps as a group, and testing ended with a very special event: breaking a board. On the board, we were to write a bad habit our child would like to "break." A parent was to hold the board for the child to break. And break did my DS. It was quite a proud moment. The children were all awarded their next belt ranks, and DS got his spankin' new yellow belt.
"Yes, I can! Ki-hap!" shouts DS at the end of each lesson, as cued by a master's "One, two, three."
We are happy with this school's philosophy of improvement, respect, and encouragement. It is not about the fighting or competition or points. It is about a clear sense of self. The self that does without minding what other people think. The self that reacts quickly and knows how to protect his body. The self that is as confident as he is self-aware.
I am amazed by DS's accomplishments in this discipline. I hope that one day that he will be able to use what he learned in that dojang in real life, should he need to, to stand up for himself and not allow someone else to trample over his meekness. There's a good chance that something will click in his mind and he'll know when to use what he has internalized for self-defense to take care of himself. I know that because his determination in that dojang is something fierce.
So, Dear Tae Kwon Do, you have been one surprising element in my life this year, and one that will be more and more appreciated as time goes by. I am comforted by DS's wholehearted embrace of a new practice, and hope that he will benefit from you physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. And in the meantime, colorfully, as in yellow.