PERSONAL GROWTH AND BENEFITS
Over the years of observing the lives of students, it is apparent that many changes take place in their physical, spiritual and emotional maturity. This would make perfect sense, as the goal of Choong Sil Kwan Taekwondo is to “develop the students’ mental and physical well being through a highly stylized and deliberate method of rigorous martial arts training.” All students, regardless of age, should see development in multiple areas of life. The level of personal growth that each student experiences is dependent upon several factors: normal maturity through aging and physical development, mental facilitation through the gaining of knowledge, spiritual maturity (insight into their own purpose for living) perseverance despite obstacles, and the advancement of their emotional makeup.
Every instructor has had the opportunity to watch a child experience difficulty in performing floor exercises, patterns or sparring, and wondered if that particular student would ever be capable of testing for the next rank, only to find them “come out of their shell” or suddenly realize the significance of what they are doing. Examples of this point are prevalent. “Emily” was a five-year old enrolled in Mid-California Tae Kwon Do in Modesto. From the beginning, she had difficulty in the areas of attention span, motivation, obedience, extreme shyness and lack of coordination, and was generally unaware of important things around her. She watched the rest of her family members progress, but it seemed there was little help for Emily. As instructors, we meet regularly to discuss ways to help specific students make progress. We jokingly would say, “I don’t know if this student will ever test again.” We always arrived at the same conclusion: every student has the potential to learn, mature and advance. It was our responsibility to develop a plan to cause that to happen. Watching Emily learn Chon Ji was a trial. She had difficulty, but passed her first test. She then went on to learn Dan Gun in one week. However, it was obvious that Emily was still having difficulties in other areas. As she grew and became more aware of her potential, she suddenly, at the age of seven, began to develop in her Taekwondo. She is now a red belt and one of the more exciting younger students to watch. We observed her mature in her age normally, as any child would. Her parents took time to speak with me regarding Emily’s progress. The parents indicated that Emily had made a personal decision to take her Taekwondo more seriously, motivated by watching her sisters advance and achieve.
As Emily focused more intently during class and made noticeable improvement, I decided to ask her what now motivated her to achieve. She responded that she had made a spiritual decision in her life to honor God with her Taekwondo. This spiritual maturity, or the expansion of her inner life, was a key factor in her development. It was apparent that physical and spiritual growth were related factors in this development in other areas. Emotionally she had matured in her control of movement and in her proper response to instructors (submission to authority).
The entire process could not have been foreseen at the onset of her training, but was evident over time. For the instructors, it was a reminder of the great responsibility we have to never lose sight of the potential in our students.
Changes in our power, balance, flexibility and ability to execute jumps are all a part of the aging process. Although some areas may become weaker, other areas will become stronger. The obvious nature of aging is complex, but maturity in the art, along with a true realization that we have less to prove than we did when we were younger, and an increased desire to continue training, cause the older martial artist to become “smarter” in their training and the implementation of patterns. Some of the movements, such as jumping, may not be safe for the older student to perform, so substituting an optional method would be the better part of wisdom. This does not detract from manhood, but allows students to be humbled, and find a greater sense of power in their lives.
Through the course of growing older and subsequent injuries, I am not able to perform physically on the same plain as I did when I trained at twenty years of age. However, maturity, knowledge, and training has made my life more powerful in other ways.
We can hope to achieve a greater level of power in our maturity and spiritual lives as we age. At the
same time, we must work hard to achieve our goals to progress in the physical aspects of the art. This
balance can be achieved with wisdom and discernment. The greatest challenge of training over the
age of fifty-five is to maintain a high standard of workouts and to be diligent in every area of training.
The more the work ethic is applied to Taekwondo the greater the personal achievements and, therefore,
there will more opportunity to reach our personal goals.