Time keeps flowing toward that magic date of December 1, 2017, when I’ll stand for my black belt test in taekwondo. I’m a little stressed. As part of my requirements, I am writing a 10 page paper about becoming a black belt. Here’s a chunk of it- by the time you read this, the whole thing will have been submitted to my instructors and the Kukkiwon, the governing body of Taekwondo located in Seoul, South Korea. I hope they like it… If you’d like to read my thoughts about courtesy, integrity, perseverance and self control, feel free to follow these links. If you are already caught up in the adventure, please continue reading for my ideas about the 5th tenet: Indomitable Spirit.
When I first started, especially when I was out in the gallery observing my children in classes, I had a hard time seeing the difference between perseverance and indomitable spirit. As I have said before, I saw both of them as variations of “never give up, never surrender!” But I see now that perseverance is more about patience, while indomitable spirit has more to do with refusal to submit, refusal to be dominated or beaten.In my hand model, it is represented by the thumb, which makes us human, which when added to the other fingers can make a fist. Even if I lose at sparring or at a tournament, I am not beaten, because my spirit refuses to lose.
At one of my tests for red belt, I broke my hand in sparring. I blocked when I should have gotten out of the way, and a kick hit my knuckle and gave me what the ER doctor colorfully called a “brawler’s fracture.” Of course, this was the next day. I hadn’t gone to the ER right away. Because of indomitable spirit. I continued my test.
My plan had been to break with a suspended knife hand strike, but since my left hand was shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t hold the board. I switched to a palm heel strike, and adrenaline helped me shatter the board with the first strike. I finished the test, got an ice pack, and then my daughter and I went out for our traditional post-test slurpee. I didn’t go to the emergency room until the next day.
Other than the brawler’s fracture, and toes that act up every once in awhile, I have been fortunate in my life to be super healthy. The only nights I have spent in the hospital have been for the births of my children. So as I hit my late 40’s this past year, and my hormones began to go haywire, I was thrown off my game. I was worn out- hormonal changes turned me from a chill yogi to a melting puddle of screeches and cries.
I finally went to a doctor.
When I was told I needed surgery, and we could schedule it for early June.
“But that’s the week of my taekwondo test!”
“How long will I have to suspend activity?”
“Well, with laparoscopic surgery, you will have three incisions in your abdomen…” she began to explain.
Long story short, no push-ups, sit-ups or other abdominal workouts for at least a month, possibly 6 weeks. No yoga for 2 weeks. All of the abdominal strength I had built up and the endurance and arm strength for pushups and downward facing dog went out the window. I still haven’t built back up to where I was before the surgery. But…I haven’t let it beat me. I’m still a maelstrom of hormones, but recently, when we did zombie crawls at family class, I made it to the end of the mat, maybe not with “ease” but at least with a sense of humor. For the uninitiated, zombie crawls involve dragging oneself across crash pads using only the upper body- no legs involved. They’re fun.
The same evening, I did a timed test with the dragon class. I was only able to do 13 full push-ups in one minute. However, 5 months ago, I couldn’t do any full push-ups. I won’t let physical limits defeat me.
The Black Belt
As I have mentioned before, I always refer to myself as becoming a black belt, rather than getting a belt, or even earning one. I know I am not finished in my journey, I am just accomplishing a goal, hitting a milestone on my path. The five tenets give me something to hold on to, as I continue to improve, both inside and outside of the dojang.