I thought you might enjoy reading her letter and passing on her experience.
It’s An Attitude for All Ages
As a student of Tang Soo Do, I stand out, not because of my ability, but because of my age. At 48, it both frustrates and amuses me to watch the kids around me breeze through routines that my body sometimes resists.
That’s why November 8, 2003 holds a special meaning for me. That’s the day I broke my first board to become a Green Belt, 2nd stripe at the Gentle Palm Academy in Wilmington, De. For me, it was a milestone because I feared I would fail – not so much at the board, but at the forms, the fundamentals that are to prepare you for the test – of breaking wood. I knew that if I did the forms okay, I could break the board.
Sabunim may have had confidence in me, but I was worried. While waiting to test, I sought reassurance from the children around me. “Is this how you start Ki Cho Hyung Sam Bu?”, I whispered to them. They thought it was funny, me asking them. Though I was nervous, I did the three forms, especially Pyung Ahn E-Dan, Okay. I was so relieved that when it was time to break the board, I was pleased – excited to do it, really.
It took me four tries, but I did it. And like all things when you do them right, it was effortless. I don’t even remember what happened in the split seconds between moving and impact. It was just silence inside centered on desire and that focused desire was wood. Then I heard the pop, like a champagne cork, of wood breaking.
But it’s not wood I overcame. It was my fears. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t break the board the first three times. Instead of being flustered, I became focused. The difference was my attitude. I believed I could do it.
And that’s the secret of the Seven Tenets. Work for what you want and you will be rewarded. This is not about easy gratification or self-congratulation. It is about effort and trying and the journey of discovery we seldom savor – so focused we are on external measures of success. When we look for validation outside ourselves, we’re trying to break the wrong wood.
Why does Master Instructor Crawley Berry say we have to chop wood and carry water? Because breaking the board is not the end of our progress, it is the beginning and a process we face daily in all our endeavors. We still have to carry water and spill a lot of it, too, as we learn to break down our individual barriers to find out purpose, our skills, and our strengths.
Karate may seem, for young minds and bodies, to be a easy exercise, but it is far more than that. It is a metaphor for the mind and for life. If you believe you can break a board, then you will do it. If there is a challenge you face, karate teaches you how to overcome it, not by brute force, but by force of will.
Success depends, not on how smart you are, but on what you do with those talents. The will to succeed trumps innate intelligence any day, because the former assumes nothing, the latter assumes everything. With the will to succeed, you can adapt to circumstances and situations because you know how to react to the unexpected. You know the world may not conform to your every expectation, so you make room for the unexpected in your life. It makes you better equipped to handle the worst and the best of times, as they happen.
Like life, karate can be hard and it can be fun. Breaking a board may seem hard, but when you do it, it’s fun. It’s all in your attitude and your effort.