I could keep talking about Jordan… and you know I want to! But while I will urge you to go to his birthday party and of course, please feel free to spread the news about him, I’ll leave that for another day. Today I’m going to talk about how hobbies impact life (and in this case, writing)
You may or may not already know that I do tae kwon do.
I started almost four years ago as a way to try to improve my fitness, and maybe lose weight. My son already did it, and had been doing so for three years. I’d considered starting up after his first year but I felt that I was too fat, too out of shape, too broken, too short… everything a TKD athlete shouldn’t be. So I didn’t. Then at that magical three year mark, Master Yun offered a Mother’s Day special to all moms in the audience at graduation.
I decided that was my stick in the sand, accepted the free uniform and free month, and started class. And I loved it (still do). It was better than step, better than spinning, better than running (WAY better than running, and yet, I cannot ESCAPE the running thanks to tournament team). And in June, if all goes as planned, I will get my black belt (my son is second dan now, if you’re curious).
But this post isn’t about that.
It’s about what I’ve learned from TKD along the way.
In June, as a part of getting my black belt, I’ll need to write an essay on what TKD has meant to me, or what I’ve learned from it, or a variation on that theme. So I’m starting to gather up my thoughts now. Also, I have known for a long time that I plan to commemorate my black belt with my first tattoo–a quote and a belt on the inside of my left wrist. The quote, however, eluded me. What words were something that summed up TKD for me?
Then I was at a tournament team practice (yes, I’m on the tournament team, and YES, I go to tournaments and compete) and I was struggling with a new technique. We had to be in close (in the clinch) and then lift up one leg and somehow magically kick our opponent in the head. From point blank range, which means pretty much using non-existent twisty-bendiness to get the point. And I was doing it slowly, trying to suss out how I might be able to contort my body and have a hope in hell of getting my foot up that high on a target that was only a foot from my own face. And Master Nash walked by and saw me struggling, wobbling, and failing. And he looked at me and he said, “Commit to the kick.”
Don’t attempt it. Don’t try it. Commit to it.
Assume that it will work and do it.
I’d love to say that I scored a perfect head kick on my next try, but not so much. I’m still not that bendy. BUT. I did get a lot closer, and the faster and harder I kicked, the more I trusted myself to just do it, the better I got.
It’s good advice.
The last tournament I competed in, I went in with a few simple goals: (1) I wanted to make it through an entire round with being outscored on a mercy gap, (2) I wanted to score with a spin back kick, and (3) I wanted to score a head kick. I was terrified (as usual) and my coach (one of our black belt teens) said that was good, because he was always nervous, but to just go in and DO IT. And I said commit to the kick and vowed to do just that. And I did. And guess what?
I didn’t score a head kick (although I certainly waved my foot in her face and made her get out of the way) and I didn’t score a spin back, but I made it through two solid rounds AND I won gold. GO ME!
Commit to the kick is valid. It’s true. TRUST YOURSELF.
It’s not just good advice on the mats, either. It’s great advice for writing.
I’ve taken some time off from original writing, working on side projects that y’all will never see because they aren’t meant to be published. I’ll talk a little more about those another day (without examples, sorry). The reason I did that was because I needed to re-learn how to trust my instincts, and how to just write, without pre-rejecting myself, and without trying to second guess all the editors/agents/etc. out there who might read (and either love or hate) my work.
I needed to learn how to commit to the kick.
I needed to learn that sometimes you have to sit down with your idea and just write it. Don’t worry about whether it’s salable. Don’t worry about whether a reader will rant about something being wrong, or want to cuddle it all day. Don’t worry about whether an editor might fall in love or turn it away after one page. Just don’t worry.
Don’t worry about failing.
Throw that kick wholeheartedly and with everything you have behind it, and do it.
Because that’s the only way to win.
When I falter in my writing, when I worry about my characters and my plot… when I sit down and the words huddle behind walls in my brain, afraid to come out… I whisper it now: commit to the kick.
And I put words on the page, one after the other. No matter how hard it is, I do it. Because that’s how it works.
Those are the words I’ll put on my wrist this summer. Those are the words that I will always carry with me, and that I will look at when I need to be reminded. Those are the words that I will live by, both on the mats and in my office.
Commit to the kick.
Because I can do it.
And by the way: so can you.