From white to black in 6 years

A journey of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and
indomitable spirit……..

Through the power of networking, I found the courage to not only write a talk about this experience but to deliver a 20-minute talk as well! So, I thought I would put it into a blog and share with you.

This journey started with a bad experience on 8 th July 2006 when I was broken into and attacked just after 2am, I won’t go into too much detail here on that event, but it did leave me with not just physical scars but emotional and mental ones too. After 6 months of not having a life, only feeling safe at work, put my house on the market and started looking for something to help get my life back – this is where the universe comes up trumps – you start seeing signs. For me that was a little advert in the village newsletter where my parents lived for a class that promised to build confidence – just what I needed.

In January 2007, not only did the attacker appear in court and got charged and sentenced to 4 years, I walked into my first class in Tae Kwon Do. Yes, the most unfit and unsporty me took up a martial art.

It turns out it is like marmite – you either love it or hate it – you get a free month to start with and at the end of that I was hooked! I signed up, got my licence, dobok and white belt and felt like part of a family.

Just a little about how it works going through your belts and gradings, they do colour belt gradings 4 times a year. Roughly in February, May, August, and November, so in this instance it was too early to grade in the February 2007 one, so got to work for my first goal of grading in May that year. Boy was it a baptism of fire or what! I knew all my syllabus, but no one prepared me for the format of the grading, but I got through and passed, so got presented with my next belt – white with yellow stripe – and did my next grading in the August and passed. Next belt was yellow and got to work on this syllabus. Now each grading involves what we call linework, a pattern so a different one of these for each belt, and not forgetting the ones you have already learnt and as you go higher, various applications focused on sparring. The pattern I learnt as yellow belt is still my favourite to this day as having a belt with a solid colour meant the most to me.

I graded in the November and got my next belt – yellow with green stripe, worked through that syllabus and then in February 2008 graded again and got awarded my green belt. It all changes here as you have to start sparring – one to one combat – not what I signed up for – so it was a challenge for my instructors not only to get me to put my protective gear on but to actually try it for the first time.

My first opponent was 6ft Gavin, but I did it, found a way to deal with it and went on to grade in May that year and got my next belt – green with blue stripe, learnt my new syllabus, and graded again in August and got awarded my blue belt. At this point as you have a lot to learn and a lot to remember, the gradings are now 6 months apart for you. So, the next time I was eligible to grade was February 2009 and I passed again and got awarded my next belt, blue with a red stripe. This is getting quite serious now (red actually signifies danger – for the opponent to stay away and the pupil to exercise control) and as the next 6 month grading approached in August 2009 I didn’t feel ready and my instructors agreed so I waited an extra 3 months and graded again in November 2009 and passed so was happy with that and got awarded my red belt!

I worked away at my next syllabus over the next 9 months as I decided that would be best for me – one of lovely things about this is that it is a marathon not a sprint and the goal is always there but you work it at your pace. So, in August 2010 I passed my next grading and was awarded my next belt – red with black stripe.

When I signed up in 2007 I had no agenda, no goal to get to this stage it was just to get my confidence back, it was working I was one step away from a black belt I was sparring and no one put any pressure on me to do anything I didn’t want to do.

However, life does have twists and turns that you don’t expect, I had a scheduled foot operation in September 2010 which affected me more than I realised, a relationship broke down and so did my finances so unfortunately fell ill with depression in November that year. This affected my training, I moved to a new house again in May 2011 got back to my training but was then having to travel further to the club, so it became difficult.

When you go for your black belt it gets pretty intense, you have to do a pre-grade (you do one in front of your instructor for every colour belt anyway) but this was at the Academy in Bristol in front of a panel of 5 th Dans and I unfortunately failed.

I nearly gave up.

But I sat myself down and thought long and hard about the journey I had come on, do I want to do that?

No.

So, in January 2012, I changed clubs to one more local and found the courage to try and fit in with new people.

I did a pre-grade in front of my new instructor, he gave me advice on what I needed to do – bear in mind I was in my mid-40’s – so with his recommendations I did a fitness course, upped my training, in the September I pre-graded in front of my instructor again and passed, I went up to the Academy and pre-graded in front of that panel of 5 th Dans and passed! By the way, you can only grade in either an April or October for a black belt.

I then entered my first competition and won a silver medal in sparring! I then went up to the Academy again to do my grading in front of the TAGB committee members – all 7 th and 8 th Dans back then and guess what – I PASSED!

Yes, I got my black belt, aged 47. My most favourite possession in the world proof of all the hard work, sweat and tears. I have since become a qualified umpire and regularly help with teaching, which I love in the lessons.

There are 5 tenets in Tae Kwon Do which you learn at the beginning of your journey:
1. Courtesy
2. Integrity
3. Perseverance
4. Self-control
5. Indomitable spirit

I aim to exercise these not only in my tae kwon do, but also in the other parts of my life, especially in business.

I continue training to this day and have been an active member of the club as a first-degree black belt for 8 years now. I have come a long way since when I first started and frankly have never looked back.

If you have read this, thank you, I just wanted to share a special journey in my life with you.

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