Gerry Wilwerding -- Second Dan

posted Sep 28, 2014, 8:45 AM by Hub Branch   [ updated Dec 4, 2016, 7:00 AM by Kendall Bailey ]
Tae Kwon Do - My Journey

My training started as many others did. Connor, my son and nearly seven, was excited about becoming active outside the home as well as having some fun. Tae kwon do appeared to fit that well and so he began, with me watching from the bleachers seeing if this was something that might interest me. I've always liked to play sports but haven't done so on a regular basis for many, many years. My wife and I were also working on getting in better shape, so I thought I'd give this a try as it looked intriguing. Both Connor and I soon realized that we enjoyed the classes and I knew my participation would also help him do his best. It was something special that both of us could do together.  Connor thought it was cool to be a rank ahead of me and I liked working with him learning his skills.   Many times he started off pessimistic about doing his board breaks and remembering his forms, but with some good encouragement and explanations he became to understand what and how he needed to do them.  When he broke his boards he became very excited and wanted to keep going to show me how easy it had become. However, I'm still working with him, at times, to understand that some things take time to learn and master, but with some hard work and perseverance one can improve what they can do. 

With tae kwon do, I enjoy learning and trying different things. I work at understanding each technique's practical aspect so that I might know how to apply it in a practical sense. This is one of the reasons I have tried the Olympic style tournament sparring. I believe it provides a more intense and physical scenario of what it might be like if you actually needed to use these skills to protect yourself. Although an actual threatening situation is not a sparring match, it does improve agility, speed, stamina, and helps foster the automatic movements needed to protect yourself. The addition of the self defense techniques adds to the practical aspects as well.I greatly appreciate these being added to our training as this was something I hoped to learn when I began. Everyone at TRMA has also fostered an excellent atmosphere for learning and cooperation. The enthusiasm and dedication of the instructors and fellow students help all of us stay excited about what were are doing while still keeping it fun. As it's often said, you won't do what you don't like. 

Staying active was a large part of why I began training. A few months prior to training, my wife and I joined the Altoona Campus fitness center in a means to lose a bit of  "excess" weight and we both have done well attending the gym for the first few months. After several months at the Campus, I found out I have a difficult time working out only for my own benefit. By taking part in tae kwon do, it gave me a sense of fitness level that I needed to maintain to continue enjoying this sport. This provided an extra incentive to improve my conditioning well enough to get through a standard class as well as add a bit of competitive spirit. I started out a bit awkward and unsure of what I was doing., but I quickly found out that I needed to do more outside of class to get what I wanted from it. Again the practical aspect of what I was doing helped drive me forward. I still have a long way to go, but I'm proud of what I've been able to do during this time and will continue to do better. Steady gains have been made with my fitness level and during the last couple months have been working harder in preparation of my test. I believe I'm nearly in the best condition for over 20 years and I hope its enough to look good on test day. 

One of the surprises during my journey is the fun of learning the nuances involved with the forms and technique.   As an engineer I strive to understand the parts that make up the whole.  This may, at first seem unimportant, but in my view this is what makes the art of Tae Kwon Do intriguing, fun, exciting, and challenging. The fact that one must learn to be relaxed to be quick, relaxed to conserve one's energy, and relaxed to provide the power only when needed seemed like such strange idea to me at first, but over the last several months I have been able to realize its importance. 

Looking back, my time in TKD I can see the progression that was made up to today. Working on learning how my body can do what is asked, as well as movements, stances, and showing the proper technique and power to demonstrate our expected skills. I have much yet to learn, such as adding gracefulness to the techniques, but I look forward to the challenges.  Possibly this gracefulness comes from relaxing the muscles, but I'll need to learn more.  From my experience as a drummer this could make sense; tense muscles are more difficult to respond.  For me this is one of the few challenges that I am still working at overcoming, the others being cardio conditioning, and breathing. Progress is being made in these regards as I am beginning to discover how to do just that. 

During this journey we are asked to understand a small bit of Tae Kwon Do and Korean history through the forms we learn and the meanings of the flags. Over time, I began to realize that there is a purpose to the madness.  The genesis and development of TKD are rooted in the customs and culture of the people who create it.   I believe palgwe forms and the Korean flag have the most profound references to what makes up TKD and their philosophical point of view.  The concept of dualism to help explain the nature of the universe is actually quite intriguing. Numerous examples can be provided indicate the concept such as:   Love/caring and discipline are used to help raise a well rounded child; being serious and easy going as the situation demands, balance in one's diet, helping others as well as yourself, and so on.  Each provides an philosophical concept of a state of well being in every day life. 

I'd like to thank my instructors, including Mr. Bond, Mr. Gookin, Master Ferguson, Master Clinton, and Master Gonzalez for providing guidance and a solid example of the tae kwon do spirit.  It is my sincerely hope that I will be able to demonstrate this as clearly to others and keep the spirit alive and strong. 

I look forward to continuing my journey and improving skills, techniques, relationships, and health as well as helping others with their journey.   Even though my anticipated shoulder surgery this summer will stop my training for several months, I know there is much more to learn and I eagerly await the upcoming challenges.