Kaye Bair -- Seventh Dan

posted Sep 29, 2014, 8:35 AM by Hub Branch   [ updated Sep 29, 2014, 8:35 AM ]
A Reluctant Martial Artist

​I had no desire whatsoever to train in martial arts. My children, however, thought otherwise.

In 1976 we lived in Iowa City, IA, and my husband practiced law in Cedar Rapids. He began training in Tae Kwon Do with GM Woo Jin Jung after work several nights a week. Our three children, after watching my husband demonstrate what he was learning, decided they wanted to train, too, and there was an adult education class taught by one of Mr. Jung’s black belts at a university gym. I thought it all silly – people punching and kicking and yelling in pajama-like outfits. Not my cup of tea.

Our children shamed me into trying it – just for the first eight week session. After all, they reasoned, I’d have to take them to class twice a week. I might as well be getting some exercise.

Yelling challenged me more than kicking and punching. I felt embarrassed. After the first few weeks, however, I realized that when I left Halsey gym after class I felt much better than when I arrived, both physically and mentally. I also soon realized that I was gradually gaining a sense of myself as a physically powerful woman. I loved that feeling. The more I practiced, the more skillful I became. The yelling, I discovered, offered me a release unavailable to me anywhere else in my life. I was hooked.

Two weeks after I received my black belt I started teaching Tae Kwon Do as a PE class at the alternative school where I worked. Faculty and students alike trained with me. In the two years I worked at that school I also did a practicum in high school counseling where I worked with students on solving their personal problems. I found students became more confident, more resilient, and more grounded doing the physical Tae Kwon Do training than they seemed to in counseling therapy. I came to realize that experiential learning can be more powerful than passive learning.

I continued to teach Tae Kwon Do and counsel young people until I retired from training twenty five years after I began. In that time my husband gave up the practice of law to become a full time Tae Kwon Do instructor. He later added Kum Do to his repertoire. I continued to work as a high school counselor, teaching and training in Tae Kwon Do and Kum Do evenings and weekends. I credit my martial arts training with my ability to meet the challenges of daily life with a strong sense of perseverance. If I, a woman who couldn’t “chew gum and walk at the same time” can become a sixth degree black belt, I can do anything.