2.B.A Master! Finding Your Path to Mastery in Martial Arts
Welcome back to the Rhetorical Roundhouse blog, your online home for the academic and practical study of Tae Kwon Do. This week I wanted to take time to pause and reflect on my martial arts journey to this point and what I want my next steps to be. As you know, I recently completed my PhD and have taken a job that allows me a few years of work before having to find something more permanent. I also have to wait three years before I can test for my 4th degree black belt. So, it might seem that I'm in a bit of a waiting period.
But I think that's a total misread of the situation.
Instead, I have decided to focus on this three year period as if it were a degree program. The 4th Dan and the subsequent certification as a master is, in many ways, a terminal degree in Tae Kwon Do. But, what does it mean to focus on something so intensely for such a long duration?
Training in martial arts for half my life has taught me to develop patience and an eye for long-term strategy. Each time I want to advance my rank I commit a gradually longer period of time to training. The early colored belts fly by every 2-3 months, the later steps toward black belt may take periods of 6 months, and then the black belt ranks are separated by years. What this means is that as a student becomes more advanced, they are challenged to direct their own training and progression more and more.
I believe that the final step to becoming a master is to stand on your own confidently--you are not perfect, but you need to defer to no one for demonstrations or explanations of your art. Even though I will always be thankful for my support network of masters and grandmasters, when I am a master myself, I wish to have the confidence, technical ability, and authority to stand as a leader.
To that end, I will treat these next three years as a training program, one designed to target and improve my core fundamentals. These areas of focus include things like breath control, balance, meditation, flexibility, basic kick ambidexterity, footwork and sparring proficiency, pumsae expertise, knowledge/history of the art, Korean language/culture, advanced demo techniques, functional fitness and mobility, professional experiences and certifications, basica sports medicine/physical therapy/first aid etc.
I believe these are all important components of Tae Kwon Do mastery and I will be working toward developing lesson plans and curricula for myself and for the future Rhetorical Roundhouse Network this year. My goal is to have a detailed 3 year training plan organized by 01/01/21.
What's your next martial arts milestone? Mine is in two weeks! I need to prepare myself for my first Black Belt Testing at US Tae Kwon Do! I'll be taking advantage of these events more often that I need to over the next three years to keep my skills sharp--I encourage all black belts to do the same. Don't wait longer than 3-6 months between some kind of a test, performance, or space where an instructor can give you feedback. These are important aspects of continuing to become better martial artists. For me this means practicing my black belt forms every day, taking adequate time to stretch and warm up, and sharpening some advanced kicks for breaking.
Whatever your next milestone is, be sure to make some kind of a plan for yourself. I'll be sure to share my August training plan in the next two weeks to give you an example. But, in the meantime, at least write down the days of the week when you plan to practice, the main focus on the practice (pumsae power, kicking speed, flexibility, etc). You'll be amazed how much more you will accomplish by simply keeping notes on how you practiced, what techniques or exercises you did--keeping some kind of a training journal is more valuable than you can know. By the time it comes to your milestone (a test, a tournament, a demonstration, etc) you can confidently look back and say that you trained purposefully and diligently. If you end up not performing the way you would like to, you have notes to refer to and exercises to change or adapt. If you're not sure if your training regimen was useful, show it to your martial arts friends or instructors to get their feedback and tips for how to improve.
Finally, one really important point about becoming a master that we all need to pause and remember...
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Also, I want to thank everyone again who has donated to the Gofundme for Master Rupert Cox and Pil Seung Tae Kwon Do. Your support is so very much appreciated in these troubling times--thank you. For those of you who would still like to donate or find out more, please click the link below! Even if you can't donate, please share the link on your social media.
That will do it for today! Hopefully by next week I can share the remainder of the conference discussions from the MARS 2020 panel. Until then, keep kicking!