I should be testing for my 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo in a few weeks. Why would I say finally if we all know that this is really the beginning in martial arts? Well... probably because I will be 52 years old in less than two months, but my story with martial arts started when I was 14. After trying several times before, in this occasion, I decided not to quit.
I practiced Shotokan Karate for about a year in 1975 in Panama. The studio was far from home, and public transportation was not very efficient, so I stopped practicing. A few years later, when I was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the same thing happened. At a certain moment in the 80’s I also practiced Aikido and a little bit of Iaido for a few months. But I was never able to reach a really advanced degree.
My son practiced Karate in Panama for more than 6 years. He got his black belt in Kempo and Shoryn Ryu when he was 13. A few years later, he decided to stop practicing to play soccer. A couple of years ago, now here in Texas, he mentioned that he would like to do martial arts again. I told him that, if he decided to do martial arts again, I would do it too. We looked at 5 or 6 martial arts schools in the Mesquite area, and my son told me that Grand Master Park's dojang was the studio that he liked the most.
We decided to join Park's Martial Arts more than two years ago. The first thing that I noticed was the banner that says "Quitters never win... winners never quit." I decided not to quit this time. It has not been easy. I am not as young as most of the students that practice with me, my right knee gets quite painful due to cartilage thinning, and my weight doesn’t help too much either. But after a few years of trying as hard as I can, I will finally be testing for my black belt very soon.
Taekwondo has helped me to improve my health. Since I started to practice, I have improved my flexibility, I have lost about 25 pounds, and our family doctor told me to stop taking my medicine for high blood pressure, since I did not need it anymore. I also feel more relaxed and sleep a lot better.
Since I know that a black belt is just the beginning of one’s journey in the martial arts, I hope to be able to continue working hard for many more years. I have already decided that the day in which I test for my first black belt will also be the day in which I start working towards my second degree black belt. I just hope to be able to learn more Hapkido and some Gumdo too!