Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Giving and Taking

As I'm waiting around after TKD Monday night (Brian has some boards for me) I'm feeling a bit discouraged. It seems like it's been a while since I've felt like I've really had a good, serious workout at TKD. Since before the test, at least. Tonight, I barely broke a sweat, and it's been like that for a couple of weeks.

I'm not sure why.

I review my evening at the dojang.

Seems like everyone wants something from the taekwondomom when I arrive at the dojang, tonight and every class day. Girls ask me how I like their braids in the changing room. Someone asks me to tie her belt. Some days, the teens tell me about their activities (an upcoming game or track meet, a test or paper due), other days, someone else wants to show me a bruise (Laying on of Hands is often the silent request. It's what moms do to Make it Better)

Patrick's dad's been in a car accident this week, so I talk with him a while. Brittany wants to tell me about her ski trip. The TKD women are here today, anticipating Ms. Prior's supposed imminent arrival back at our school, and that needs to be discussed.

I like this part of being here, connecting with my classmates, hearing about their lives, giving out a touch here, a pat on the head there. But tonight, more than once I glance over at Brian and Aimee, who are working on our new form. I barely even get my stretches in before Master Hughes claps his hands "Line up everyone."

We've got new classmates today, a mom and her two boys. They stand at the back, not yet in uniforms, following along as best they can. During some kicking practice, I'm paired up with the mom. I'm glad to do it. I love to teach. I walk her through the side kick and roundhouse kick, and encourage her in her attempts. Still, I'm teaching more than working out. But when one's a brown belt, it's expected. Especially when there are so few adult black belts.

Can't stay after class to go through forms on Mondays anymore. The city's waterski team is using our gym for winter workouts. So we get our boards signed and troop out past the crowd of unfamiliar faces. In the changing room, the TKD women talk about Ms. Pryor: how we miss her killer workouts, the cardio stuff, her sparring advice. Her absence was especially hard tonight, when we had a big class, and Justin, Chelsea, and Stacey weren't there to help with teaching.

What I need
I'm a brown belt now. My education in TKD is becoming serious. I want to keep learning. I want to improve. Yet with a dearth of adult black belts at our school, and with only one Master teacher at our school, I feel like the opportunity to be challenged and mentored is spread very thin.

(In TKD, you're considered a "Master" after you've gotten to your 4th dan, your 4th test past the black belt tests. Ms. Pryor reached 4th dan this summer. Master Hughes is 7th dan.)

Right now, I'm getting one end of being a brown belt: the opportunity to help teach, help, and reach out to other students. I like this part a lot; I love to teach, I love to feel that connection with my classmates. But I'm feeling a bit depleted. As a writer, I know that your ability to write will dry up if you don't give yourself a chance to replenish your creativity--with reading, trips to museums, walks in the park, music, dance.

I would guess it's the same with learning a martial art. If you're always teaching, helping, giving--you'll run out of your ability to practice the art. You'll run dry.

The big question: how to keep myself motivated; how to get the instruction, training, and mentoring I need as I continue to learn; how to balance teaching and learning.

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