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Rock 'em Sock 'em

I have never been hit like I was hit last night. In a split second, WHAM! I was hit with a quick punch to the chest and found myself bent over sucking for air.

Now, I’ve had the wind knocked out of me before, many times. As a kid, I remember repeatedly having the air sucked out of my lungs by a quick gust of Yellowknife’s cold arctic winter wind. Then there are the myriad of times when goofing off and playing around with friends where I’d be accidentally get smucked in the solar plexus and be left gasping for breath.

But last night was different. For one, I willingly signed up and participated in the experience. Two, I was wearing a hogu (which is a martial arts chest protector) and was in a sparring match with an opponent. My opponent did no harm. He was only doing what he’s supposed to do in a Taekwondo match - hit me. And after all, I was was attempting to do the same thing to him.

So when I say I was hit like I was never hit before, I mean that both the shock of the hit AND being on the receiving end of it is something I’m truly not accustomed to. And obviously I have some work to do when it comes to handling that.

You see, just shy of three months ago I joined a Taekwondo club. My son had expressed an interest in martial arts and so I took him to a beginner class. As I watched from the sidelines I thought it looked like fun. Challenging, no question, but equally rewarding and something I’d like to give a go at. And so I went back for my first class that same evening, darning my black Lulu’s and a t-shirt. It was a quiet night at the Adult class, just myself, the instructor and a black belt student. Needless to say, after humbling hour with those two, I spoke with the Master Instructor and my son and I returned to the next beginner class and have been attending two to three classes a week ever since.

In some classes we work on kicking, blocking and punching techniques, and other sessions we practices Poomsae’s (which means ‘forms’ in Korean). There’s always cardio and calisthenics included in every class be it running laps, leaping like frogs, crawling like bears, and the good ‘ole fashion push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, plus and a myriad of other heart-pumping drills and exercises.

And then every second Thursday, it’s sparring night. This is where we are paired up and, for a few minutes, we take all of what we’ve learned and trained on in class, and test it against an opponent. There are times when we are matched by belt rank, and times when we are matched by height/size. There are other times when we are paired with either someone smaller or bigger than us, or higher or lower in rank.

Regardless, facing off against an opponent is as much about landing a kick or punch as it is about learning how to take one. And last night, I had one heck of a lesson on learning how to take one.

Yes, today I have a few new bruises, but I also have a deeper level of understanding and respect for the sport of Taekwondo, and my fellow classmates. Now I don’t want to compare apples to oranges here but I will say that much of what I’m learning in Taekwondo has me cycling back to aspects of my Yoga study and practice. For one, the tenets of Taekwondo are : courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. These qualities are equally present in the teachings of Yoga.

Courtesy is a form of kindness by way of demonstrating respect in to others through ones actions and attitude toward the people and places around you (ahimsa).

Integrity is learning to live truthfully (satya). It’s reflected in ones ability to observe and acknowledge the way one’s actions affect the people and world around you, and owning up to the result of those actions.

Perseverance is having a ‘never give up’ kind of attitude that is as much about showing up as it is about doing the work (vairagyam).

Self-control, simply put, is consistently reflecting and mastering the way that you conduct yourself (svadhyaya).

And indomitable spirit, which for me is a form of what Patanjali calls tapas, is a kind of discipline that has you getting back up after life knocks you down and learning from it rather than running away.

Needless to say, learning Taekwondo has been an eye-opening experience on what it means to pay attention, to master ones actions, to work through challenges, to let shit go, and to walk away from every experience having gained a new level of understanding.

And if that’s not Yoga, I don’t know what is.

Forever a student on this journey called life,


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