A Letter from the Managing Editor: Earning My Black Belt

How Earning My Black Belt Helped Me Find Myself

By Jenny Steadman September 14, 2018

I love publishing this newsletter. I spend the month gathering content, taking suggestions from you and putting together information to help you and your family on your path to wellness. This monthly column is to let you know I am here with you! I'm a mom with young children and a crazy schedule; I don't get enough sleep and have trouble eating well. We are in this together and, as a team, we can improve our lives, our families, and our communities. 

If you've been following Family Wellness for a while, you know I've been practicing Taekwon-do for many years. Last month I earned my black belt. I could not be prouder of myself. Unlike a traditional belt promotion test, in Taekwon-do a black belt test has a few different elements to it. I not only had to perform in front of an audience with judges (with my fellow black belt contenders), but I also had to run two miles with a goal of finishing in 20 minutes and submit an essay with the topic "Taekwon-do and me." Every single step of this took me out of my comfort zone, but I was up for the challenge. 

The Run

I had been training almost every day but I could not get my two miles under 23:30 minutes. I vowed to give it my best, and I did. The day of the test, I came in at 21:28. A personal best by far! 

The Test

I tested with two peers. I was delighted to have such a strong support system. We warmed up with kicks, ran through some forms and free fighting and then broke a bunch of boards. The adrenaline was a thrill and we were all happy with our performance that day!

The Essay

This is the most personal. Sometimes just the judges read these essays, but sometimes you are asked to read it to the audience at the test. I wrote it prepared to share. But that didn't happen this time around, so I would like to share it with you.

Taekwon-do and Me: An Essay

This was never on my to-do list. I was never supposed to learn a martial art.

I used to take a kickboxing class at a martial arts studio and one day they had us stay to do a trial class and, while I obliged, my brain was screaming, “No! No! No!”

I grew up playing tennis. As an adult, I learned to love yoga and pilates. Put me in a spin class and I’ll be in heaven. I like to run solo with headphones on. I’m a solo player. I don’t do physical contact sports. None at all. 

Enter Master Marr’s Taekwon-do. We signed up our girls right after the school opened. I was apprehensive, mostly because of my own feelings about contact sports, but my husband thought it would be good for them. So we tried it out. I watch them for a whole year. Two to three days a week, I would sit and watch. Everything got better… their listening skills, their concentration, their posture, their self-confidence, their body-awareness and I watched it all in real time. For a whole year, I watched. I watched them learn patterns that my brain would never comprehend. I watched them break boards in amazement. I watched and cheered as they tested for new belts and encouraged them when they didn’t want to go to class or were nervous about a new promotion. All while I sat on the sidelines. 

I promised I would sign up, and I meant it, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from attending a class, learning a pattern and mostly, from myself. I didn’t know where this would take me physically or mentally. I had no expectations.

I have found that more than three years in, I still don’t have definitive answers to any of these expectations... and I find that exciting. As I’ve gotten older, I have gotten more comfortable with pushing myself out of my comfort zone until it becomes the norm. “Fake it ‘til you make it” has allowed me to rise to a new level in many parts of my life and that includes Taekwon-do.

Something happens in this fifth decade of life when you realize the only person that really matters is you. I’ve come to a place of peace and I love and accept myself as I am, physically and mentally. I am a mother of two. I am a work-at-home mom. I run a start-up business. I do miss playing tennis. But I get to learn to play guitar with my daughter and live in an RV for weeks at a time with my family. And I get to go to concerts with my husband and with my friends. And you know what else? I found this wonderful new family here at this do-jang run by the Bayless-Marrs and lived in by all of us. I’ve had fun and I’ve laughed. I’ve hurt myself, been frustrated, and cried. I’ve learned things I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve learned things I never even thought about trying to do. I’ve become this person who is as whole as I have ever been. I’ve become this amazing melting pot of things that I love doing and Taekwon-do is a huge part of that. 

Taekwon-do has given me a new sense of self, a way to bond with my daughter, strength and confidence, pride, new friends, and another family. My life is better because Taekwon-do is in it. 

I join my daughter, who earned her black belt in April. 

If you made it this far, thank you for indulging me! 

All my love to you,