In the early 1970s, at the age of 21-22, married with two young children – I was really not much more than a child myself. Seeking more income to manage growing family bills, I wound up at the highest paying unskilled labor job around: the Post Office. Working different shifts and often long hours I made a number of young friends, all of us looking for ways to break the boredom of work, work, work & sleep. So…..five of us decided to check out a karate studio.
When we five healthy young men walked out after observing the class we were awed. There was no doubt in our minds that the instructor could have ‘won’ in a battle against all of us together! And so it happened that two of us began studying Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, a Korean Martial Art under the instruction of then 6th Dan Black Belt, Mr. Jae Chul Shin.
Martial Arts always fascinated me, as it did many of my generation. So I proceeded to immerse myself in the world of MA. With several stops for different reasons I spent 10 years studying first Tang Soo Do and then Tai Chi Chuan. And yes, I discovered that trained MAs can indeed do things most of us would think not humanly possible (movies, wires and special effects aside).
But much more were the things I learned about myself, and by implication – all of us. When you think you are drained, wiped out, that you have given every bit of yourself – there are reserves, strengths, even abilities still untapped. Certain skilled people (trainers, teachers, mentors, etc.) can tell what you have left and then pull it out of you. I discovered my strength, and it’s root. I discovered that it is possible to lose 65 pounds in less than 6 months and not have any loose sagging flesh. At least in my own case.
There was so much more that I simply can not put it all in this message: so let me focus on some of the changes it wrought in my life. This is, after all, about the fencepost.
I took dance classes but would never get out on the floor and enjoy it. Through MA I gained the self confidence to dance. I became aware of the effect things like drinking and smoking had on my body. I could actually FEEL the difference, the after-effects! I began to understand that I am a mind with a body as opposed to a body with a mind. It was this confidence and sense of my physical being that led me to stop smoking. Don’t get me wrong – it took several years to find a method that worked for me but the desire and decision stemmed from this time in my life.
What it boiled down to was learning that I could do, and be, so much more. That there is more in life that is possible than impossible. The “yes I can” attitude that I learned was, in many ways, the beginning of my adult life. A great many things happened after that which focused and supercharged the positive attitude: but it began with finding my true love (who believed in me before I did) and continued with Mr. Shin helping me see that I could believe in myself.
The truth behind the power of Martial Arts is only partially physical. The greater part of that power comes from within. Call it mind, attitude, spirit, whatever – for me, the study of Martial Arts helped release my personal strength, and therefore shape me. The force of what I learned lives with me still.