Monday, September 12, 2011

What I have Learned from My Taekwondo Training

Throughout my middle school and high school years, I regularly participated on my school football teams and associated weight training classes.  After graduating from high school, my physical activity became only occasional for the next 35 years.  Skiing and scuba diving became my two main sports – neither of which offered a regular, year-round aerobic experience.  It seemed that every time I tried to start some exercise regime, even just walking, something would get in the way and throw me off track. Illnesses, business travel and changing seasons (mostly the onset of winter) were the most common barriers that I encountered.  Once off track, I would normally not get back on track again for a considerable time.

Since my wife got me started with Taekwondo training in 2007, I have had the structure that I needed to keep on track, no matter what barriers arose.  I have still encountered barriers -- that has not changed at all. But the structure was there to get me back on track as quickly as possible, my wife was there to support me along with her own desire to achieve her black belt, and I have a really good physical therapist who helps me get over my injuries (mostly from Taekwondo sparring) sooner than later.

This is one of the lessons that I have learned -- that it is important to have a solid and multifaceted support structure, along with clear goals, to be successful in undertaking a long-term and meaningful exercise regime.

When I first started Taekwondo, I saw it almost entirely as a form of aerobic exercise, which was the kind of exercise that I was most in need of for health reasons.  The idea or testing and advancing from one belt level to the next was not something that I had much interest in.  In part, this was because I travel a lot and I knew it would be a challenge for me to advance in belt levels on a regular basis.  So I did not push that aspect and did not make a lot of effort to make up classes when I had fallen behind.  With time, however, my interests in Taekwondo have changed. In addition to the aerobics, I was also enjoying learning the forms.  I think this is because it is a form of tacit learning (or “body knowledge”) that is so different from what my day job entails.  The forms have become my most favorite part of the class.  I enjoy sparring too, though I seem to get hurt more than I would like, which is a bit of a concern.

This is the second lesson that I have learned – that motivations change over time and in unanticipated ways, leading to new ways to appreciate the skills and knowledge learned in Taekwondo.

The biggest change that has occurred for me, I think, is the change in my health -- especially in my weight.  I have lost 50 pounds since my highest weight (in June 2009). Taekwondo has not been the sole reason for this, as I did not really start losing weight until about 9 or 10 months after I started Taewkondo.  Most of my weight loss has been due to diet changes.  Taekwondo has helped to burn calories, but more important, the physical and aerobic exercises in Taekwondo have been huge in making me healthier than ever.  I was, for example, taking medicine to control my cholesterol for quite a few years. As I lost weight and became more fit, my doctor allowed me to try and reduce, then successfully stop taking that medicine entirely.  I still have gout issues (which has been there since high school), but in every other way I am as healthy as possible, and Taekwondo has played a big part in that.

The is the third less that I have learned – that it is important to work on my health (and happiness) from a variety different perspectives, including regular aerobic exercises, mental challenges, and a balanced and reasonable diet.

In sum, I have learned a lot through my Taewkondo training, both in the training itself and, more 
importantly, how it related to my entire life beyond the training. 

[This essay was written as part of my Black Belt test.  I study Taekwondo at Maximum Martial Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona.]

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