When I was a kid, I always thought that martial arts was all about strength, power, and violence. This type of fighting is portrayed in the media very frequently and as a little child, it is very easy to become influenced by these images. So when I started Soo Bahk Do, I had a fairly different idea of how class would go. Honestly, I was very nervous, what if I wasn’t strong enough? When I got there, I saw how they respected each other, how they focused to become the best version of themselves, how they were a family. As I was getting to know everyone, they were always so kind and helpful. When you spend an hour together, three times a week for years, you become a close-knit family. Soo Bahk Do means being strong in your mind and body. It’s a balance.
After joining Soo Bahk Do, I felt more confident. It was a way for me to realize that if someone ever tried to hurt me, I could defend myself. When you are walking down a crowded street as a seven year old, it can be very scary. It makes you feel vulnerable, but when you learn how to defend yourself, you feel more independent. Even though I was definitely not a master, I felt stronger. I felt like I could protect myself. I think that martial arts helped make me stronger inside and out, I feel safer when I walk by myself.
I also learned to accept the mistakes I made, you aren’t great at anything overnight. I made mistakes, but I tried my best to fix them. It wasn’t always easy, it still isn’t, but I have tried to accept that I am not going to nail every move every time and that skill takes a lot of time and work. When I was a white belt, I thought it was difficult, and I thought I would never get to be an orange belt, and then I did. I thought I would never become a green belt, but now, as a red belt, I can say that I’m glad I persevered. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned. Sometimes it gets really hard to balance dance, school, martial arts, and still have time to spend with your friends and family, but once I get to class and I start to learn and focus, everything just fades. It’s very calming and fulfilling to work hard in class and see the benefits.
When I was nine, I broke my elbow and I had to have a cast on for two months, during which I was not allowed to dance or workout. It was hard trying to remember everything after such a long break and missing the chance to test, but it made me work harder. I realized, why spend so much time each week doing something that you don’t learn from or try hard in? Once I started working as hard as I could and focusing in class, I could see the difference. I knew more terminology, my stances got deeper, my forms flowed better, I felt more confident.
It is very interesting to me to see how the values we learn in Soo Bahk Do can be directly applied to our lives. During my day I try to apply the Ten Articles of Faith and Training to my school day. It helps when I get frustrated in class and I can remember to take a deep breath and focus. Although respecting yourself is not one of the ten articles, I think it is still important to remember. If I make a mistake, I try to not say pessimistic things to myself to make myself feel bad. I also try to be kind and respectful to those who are less fortunate than me, and giving back to the community.
In the beginning of my training, my dad and I had wanted to find a teacher that had classes with both adults and children in them, working together, so when we found Redwood Coast Soo Bahk Do we were very excited. My dad and I had a lot of fun working together in class and then going home and working on our techniques, but when he had to quit because of his work schedule I continued training on my own with all of my new friends. Although my dad had been the one person I knew in the beginning, I made friends with everyone immediately and even felt comfortable training without my dad.
As a dancer, doing all of the kicks and stances was not very new for me because I was used to high kicking and working on my leg strength, but it was still fun to challenge myself. It is very interesting to me to see how well the two activities of dance and martial arts balance each other out. As I work on core exercises and flexibility in dance, I am helping my performance in Soo Bahk Do and vice versa.
When I was younger, I couldn’t fully appreciate the breathing exercises that we did in class, but now I can see the bigger picture. It is very interesting to me to see exactly how much of our power and strength comes from our breath and hips. We work on hip technique very frequently while in class and I think it is fascinating to see how much it affects our movements.
As I am testing for my cho dan, I am thinking back on how much work and time I’ve put into Soo Bahk Do. I can still picture myself as a little seven-year-old, learning how to throw a punch. It feels pretty amazing to know so much and be proud of how far I’ve come. Soo Bahk Do is a huge part of my life and I’m very grateful for my teacher and all that she has taught me. Soo Bahk Do is a very productive use of my time and I am glad I met my martial arts family.