written by Ellie Bishop McKenzie,
Crossfit Odyssey and Odyssey Martial Arts
Last weekend I was invited to see something that very few people in the world get to see – one of my students was awarded his black belt in Taekwon Do and his instructor – my instructor – was awarded his 6th degree black belt. Very few people in this country take martial arts, fewer become black belts and fewer still become 6th degree black belts.
I started taking Taekwon Do almost two years ago. I never imagined how it would transform me and my life. When I started I was 41 years old and thought it might be a fun way to do something with my kids. I don’t think I planned on taking it seriously or becoming a black belt at first – especially since I broke my ankle sparring within the first two months. But I got back into it, worked hard, and today I am a 1st degree blue belt, which is about the 7th belt out of 12 with the 13th being the black belt – about half way.
Just after I started taking Taekwon Do I took a job teaching the gifted and talented program for the 5th-8th grades here in Fernley. One of my students was a 7th grade boy named Christian. He was also a Taekwon Do student with me. Christian is a good-hearted, typical 13 year old boy, and as such he had a long, difficult road to becoming a black-belt. He had to learn the moves, but the hard part was that he had to learn to focus, to overcome his fears, to keep pushing when pushing was the last thing he wanted to do.
What was truly inspiring to me was to see the teacher and the student working together. As a teacher myself I know how hard it can be to inspire a student to push – especially when pushing is the last thing they want to do. But the instructor pushed the student and then the student pushed himself. On test day they began at 7am with a 5 mile run followed by about 3 hours of testing. At noon we went to Reno to see the big test in front of the Grand Master. At the end of it all we were all able to see Christian get his black belt. And Christian did an amazing job. He was focused and intent and he outshone all the other black belt candidates.
We were also able to see something else pretty amazing – the instructor became the student and took his test for his 6th degree black belt. Standing before us were 6 men and one woman. All of the men but one were over fifty years old. The woman was in her sixties and the last man was her son. Each of them stood before Grand Master and performed their patterns and their self defense, etc…. Except for their patterns, a lot of their tests were more of a performance for the audience – how to defend yourself sitting on the floor or in a chair or against a gun or knife. Believe me, I would never want to come up behind one of them in a dark alley!
What was most intriguing to me was to see the beginning student and the master student side by side learning and improving themselves. You see, learning is something we all should do everyday for the rest of our lives. We never reach a place where there is no more to learn, not even when you become a teacher. In fact, in becoming a teacher, you learn more than you ever thought you could learn!
When I saw these two, teacher and student, test together I saw two paths for myself. I could choose to give up when a challenge meets me head on. I could choose to be resigned to what life gives me. I could be complacent. Or maybe, just maybe, I could continue to learn and make more of myself … and shine.
To use the words of my instructor (and steal the last line of his essay)… “Who’s going to be a black belt? I am sir.”
To see my instructor, John Mariotti’s, blog about becoming a 6th degree black belt go here:<a href=”http://sunday-stories.blogspot.com/?wref=bif”>http://sunday-stories.blogspot.com/?wref=bif</a>
- Can my black belt help get me into college? (pngwarrior.com)