Metamorphisis: Transition and Adaptation
by Randall W. Carson, Jr.
I remember very little of my youth. Many memories are foggy, hidden in a mist thick within time condensed...but that's all poetic cliches I won't bother you with (for the time being.) Despite all that I may have forgotten of my childhood on a conscious level, many instincts and habits rooted in subconscious thought come forth on a routine basis.
One of the few things I can recall without any searching is my first day of Tae Kwon Do class when I was about 9 years old. I was so nervous, and I got nothing right it seemed. I kept telling myself it was my first day, and I was bound to err; I would get better with time. Yet, it just seemed even as my training advanced and I went up in rank, I still just couldn't get anything right. I honestly didn't think I deserved 90% of the promotions I got. Upon reaching Black Belt, I almost quit from feeling guilty achieving a rank of that nature being such an "imperfect" martial artist.
In some regards, for a while, I did quit. I did not ever set foot back into my old academy (where I trained for close to 5 years) again, and I hung up my dobok for a few months...that is, until my father (without my consent) signed me up to a new academy. This time, it was under the wing of one Mr. Simmons.
Mr. Simmons was an old friend of the family's, yet he did not take it easy on me or grant any favors. He trained my butt off. He also noticed my lack of confidence, telling me that I need to train hard, but not be too hard on myself either. A martial artist seeks perfection, but never attains it. If he (a martial artist) became perfect, he would NEVER need to train. So, he asked me, in a serious yet humorous way: "Why do even the masters still train? It is because they are not perfect themselves. They just come closer to perfection than the rest of us, and that's why they hold rank."
He taught me to work past my physical imperfections, hone my strengths, and fortify my weaknesses. Under his instruction, I achieved my first degree black belt in a suprise test...what I thought would be a Saturday morning of me pulling Floor Judge duties at my fellow student's testing, turned into an hour-long pop quiz. This taught me to be ready for anything. Mr. Simmons always told us that while a good martial artist may not be ready ALL the time or be forced from his element from time to time, he/she needs to be able to react, be flexible and adapt to the situation at hand.
Adaptation and flexibility. Crucial. I did not realize the full extent of what he taught me until 10 years later.
Back in 2001, I had to hang my Dobok up for good as I joined the United States Air Force. I passed Basic Training without too many problems: I credit much of that success to the discipline and focus 10 years of Tae Kwon Do had gave me. While on duty, I was injured in late of 2001, and discharged honorably from active duty in 2002 when it seemed my injuries were permanent. During the next 6 years, I sunk into a deep depression and gained 60 pounds. It was during this time I almost died of complications from the side-effects of my injuries, that all but made me a cripple.
Yet, I lived. I realized I needed to push on, and come out of my slump. I began getting the medical help I needed, and soon enough, I gained much of my mobility again. It was after I began to get healthy, I realized that I could jump back into TKD again.
Yet, it was not to be. Mr. Simmons had retired and there was no TKD academy that caught my eye close to this little country town I live in. It seemed that my martial arts days were over.
Martial arts? As much as I loved TKD (and still do, with a PASSION,) I realized that martial arts is a vague statement. So, I started from scratch and signed on to a new style entirely as a white belt. Kind of humbling to start from the bottom rung when you've held some rank in another academy.
In a short 3 months of training, I have already advanced to the fourth rank, having successfully double tested once. Yes, it's a different style, but I remember that Mr. Simmons said a good martial artist needs to be flexible. We need to be able to adapt. While I may no longer be a "certified" 1st degree black belt in TKD, as my new instructor (sensei, in this case) stated, THAT knowledge CANNOT be taken from me.
If you pardon the analogy, I look upon Tae Kwon Do as my "Martial Arts Father." TKD taught me much; taught me to be a stronger person. Even though I have been forced to leave my father's "nest," I have been married off to my new style. I have to adapt to "his" rules as he is now the head of my house, but every thing my father taught me lets me be a better spouse (student) to my new school.
I still love my father, and respect him in the highest way. When my new training presents a problem, I can always go back to dear old martial arts dad for some sound advice (I still practice TKD in my free time.) He hasn't failed me yet. Deb's reply:
Randall this is a great story!
Thanks for sharing with us the ups and downs of your martial arts (and life) journey. I have no doubt that others will find your story inspiring and motivating.
You illustrate very well the important lesson that if we aim for progression rather than perfection our journey is smoother and our confidence is more likely to remain high.
Thanks again - and keep in touch- we'd love to know how you are going in a year or so's time.