Jason Harris -- Second Dan

Post date: Sep 29, 2014 3:49:33 PM

 “What Tae Kwon Do Means to Me”

August 8th, 2009

Tae Kwon Do is a fascinating piece of my life.  To understand what Tae Kwon Do means to me, a person should learn a few things about me first.  I grew up on a small farm in the Midwest where I graduated from a small community High School.  It was a tight knit community where pretty much everyone knew everyone.  My dad worked as a supervisor for over 30 years in a Tool and Die factory that closed down just a few years before his retirement date.  My mom was a nurse that eventually quit her job at the hospital to be a "stay at home mother".  I helped raise livestock and crops with my family where I soon learned that getting your hands dirty was not a bad thing but a way to enrich your spirit and your soul.  After High School, I worked full time at a local factory where I saved up money to put towards my college tuition.  When in college, I was trying to decide on academic electives for my schedule when I saw "Tae Kwon Do".  I thought......"How cool would that be to learn Martial Arts".  I signed up and I remember going to the first class where I was so nervous but I soon learned that several other students were as well.  The teacher was a strong athletic type with a very authoritative mentality.  We would watch him warm up where he was performing his "forms" and other movements around the room.  We used to talk about how we would love to be in his shoes someday to wow others with skills like that.  It was an impressive sight.  I took classes for less than a year as it was tough to keep it in my schedule since it was only offered at one time a week and I often had schedule conflicts.  After I graduated and moved away, that was the end of my Tae Kwon Do experience at that stage in my life.

I later got married and started a family.  My son is very active in sports and other hobbies so we decided to enroll him in Tae Kwon Do.   I said I wanted to take classes with him.  One thing that my parents taught me was that you are never too old to learn as when my dad's factory shut down, he enrolled at the local community college to take classes.  I have always respected that from a man who was on the edge of retirement.  Even though my mom never went back to college, she too has taken informal instruction from others to expand her life.  So, at the age of 39, I took the step back into the Tae Kwon Do-Jang for the first time again.

I will never forget the first class we had as Mr. Netsch greeted us and just sat down to explain the concept of Tae Kwon Do as well as the history of Two Rivers Martial Arts.  I always thought this was a much of a better introduction into the beginning stage of Tae Kwon Do than the experience I first had when in college.  He was understanding and very easy to talk to when people had questions. Master Samuelson came on the next night and I still remember my first conversation with him.  As I stared at his belt with 5 strips on it, I posed questions to him.  He said "I was a white belt once, just like you folks, we've all been there".  Just that little comment seemed to make sense and put us to ease.   They both proved to be very understanding of a new student’s perspectives on something new, especially a person who isn’t 21 anymore.

So my main goal was initially to support my son but as he grew into several other sports and other activities (too many perhaps) I decided to keep my training up.  I loved the family aspect of Two Rivers Martial Arts and how it really motivates me to push harder to the next level.  If you were to ask me back in 2006, if I would be testing for my black belt someday, I would have told you "probably not, it takes a lot of dedication to get there and I might not have enough time to stick with it".  As I look back at how I just took each level as one more step with the other students I was training with, it made it so much easier to stay motivated.  We often formed a pact to stay focused and make it to the next test.  I soon learned that the Tae Kwon Do family can be such a powerful thing.  In Indianola, the Tae Kwon Do family sensation is alive and well but it doesn't stop there.

I soon learned that by training at other branches in the metro area, our extended Tae Kwon Do family is just as supportive to each of us who venture out of Indianola.  I get a strong sense of belonging at SE Polk, Hub, etc. when I train with others as we are all connected even though we don’t live in the same area.  This has to be one of the greatest strengths that Two Rivers Martial Arts has to offer.  I think students who need flexibility in their hectic lifestyle just like I do, would appreciate being able to train at any location that will fit their schedule or location.  I don't know of any other Martial Arts family that can offer classes 6 days a week within 25 minutes of each other.

I can definitely understand why we have the Tenets of Tae Kwon Do.  They all have a purpose in our lives and we must do our best at balancing each one to enrich ourselves which will also enrich others around us.

Courtesy is an easy one to see why it would belong not only in the Do Jang but everywhere in a person’s life.  I feel that I do have a courteous personality but I do know there are times and will be times in my future where things that I say or do are not the respectful style that we all should have 100% of the time.  To be polite and giving of encouragement to others no matter what their gender, age, belt rank or social status is not only common sense but something that we all should take seriously.  There isn’t a week that goes by, where I can see others in our Do Jang who needs encouragement from us as just like Master Samuelson told me on my first day “I was in your shoes once before….”

Integrity is something that is valuable to not just the immature but the older adult as well.  I remember one person defining Integrity as “doing the right thing even if no one is watching”.  That has always stuck in my mind and it reminds me to do just that for the sake of showing Integrity in my daily routine. Perseverance……….my favorite tenet of all.  I think of this word every time I get out of bed and I feel all of those sore muscles that I have had over the years.  I think of this every time I look to my right or left and see kids less than half my age.  I think of this word every time I am learning a new form that takes me weeks to remember all of the segments that go together to make the whole form complete.  There hasn’t been a form taught to me where I didn’t have to reflect back on perseverance to drive me into trying to memorize each form.   I think of this word every time I am faced with a new board break that scares me a lot and I’ll feel as though I won’t be able to make the break.  This upcoming test is no different as it has been very tough to convince myself of overcoming this next challenge.  Perseverance, it’s something that I’ve tried to make into my middle name as without it, I would have never made it past my first test.

Self Control, it’s definitely a value we all need to manage as without a sense of self control we can not only be a source of harm to others but also to ourselves.  I like the old saying of “stronger is the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else”.  I think this is also very true.

Indomitable Spirit.  This tenet is something that I need to continue to focus on to help me overcome those big challenges I face no only in the Do Jang setting but in other aspects of my life.  Being able to overcome fear or hesitation when faced with overwhelming odds is such an adrenaline rush as I know, I have felt it when learning a tough form or finally making that tough board break.  When I went to a Tae Kwon Do tournament out of town for the first time, I had to compete against a larger number of very talented students from other Martial Arts schools.  I remember thinking of being the “indomitable Spirit Student” who could overcome this challenge to not just blend in but hopefully put on a sharper show in the competition.  What a rush it was when I heard my name announced twice during the tournament when earlier I didn’t think I had much of a chance at a medal.  I know it’s not the medals that makes us a good student but its just one of those things that reminds me of how I felt I was faced with overwhelming odds when comparing myself to the several other students in my class and how I tried to focus and overcome my own fears.  It worked.  This when combined with my other tenet of perseverance, it’s truly the strongest focal points that have helped me the most. My final thoughts on what Tae Kwon Do means to me is how I often think about what makes up a TKD student.  It’s what I call “TKD Soup”.  When you are making a nice meal or in this case a nice bowl of soup, you have a recipe to make this soup.  Each recipe has in it directions for the ingredients which make up this fantastic soup.  If followed correctly, the soup will turn out fantastic but if you stray from the recipe, the soup could be compromised.  What I am getting at is how each one of us are a product of all of the hard work from our instructors and fellow classmates who transform us into the students that we have become and will even change further in time.  Perhaps I should call it “TKD Wine” as hopefully the ingredients / students get better with age and maturity but I like “TKD Soup” better for some reason.

The reason I think of this angle is that whenever we have an instructor call out for us to perform a certain TKD movement or form, the first thing that usually pops into my head is when I was taught the initial movements by a specific TKD instructor.  For example, when I hear “Palgwe 3”, I think of Mr. Netsch asking me “Jason, what does it start out like?”  I then can remember it is similar to “Chon Ji”.  When I get to the later portion of the form I think of “Mr. Daugherty” as he helped me refine that middle section.  Palgwe 6 reminds me of Ms. Kingsbury, the jump front snap kick comes from Mr. (Bruce) Crawford, knife hand strike board break to the side comes from Master Hammer, and forward ridge hand break is a product of Master Ferguson.   Ms. Williams and Ms. Evans teach me every week that even a woman can be a deadly opponent in the ring and that I need to hold my arms in a certain way to protect my middle area better.  I think of them every time I line up to begin sparring.  They have helped me refine this skill.

Of course Master Samuelson and Mr. Netsch have so many skills that they have taught me that I wouldn’t have enough room in this paper to discuss each of them.  I think patience and understanding is the easiest way to define them as that is just a small portion of what makes them such great instructors.  Mr. Baccam and Mr. Anderson have proved to be very helpful to me over the years and continue to teach me numerous skills.  Don MacDonald teaches me that patience but perseverance can’t always be seen in a specific belt rank.  Mr. Siever has shown me that you don’t have to be a large man to be strong and fierce in your training.  Master Clinton reminds me of how a leader can not only command such a large number of skilled TKD students but at the same time be very understanding to reflect one on one when I have a concern or when I am not sure how a TKD technique is performed in class.  She has been a big help over the past few years to me in and out of the TKD Do Jang.  She definitely reflects the tenets to help me each week.    Mr.Kinseth has helped me understand that you definitely don’t have to be the strongest guy in the battle but only the smartest thinking one to make the other person “do all of the sweating”.  “Old Man Style” is definitely something I want to learn more of as he makes the skills look effortless but most importantly fun with his humor.  Of course the most important people I have to thank are Angie and Trevor as without their patience and understanding each and every day, I would have never made it past the yellow belt test.  I can’t tell you how many times they have had to change their schedule to allow me to get to class and work out.  They have sacrificed just as much as I have to be where I am today.

So as you can see, each and every single little skill that I have learned in TKD makes me reflect back to the person who taught me that skill.  My bowl of TKD soup is full of ingredients from far too many people to list here but hopefully I have listed at least some of the main “ingredients” that have helped me get to the level of Brown belt that I stand at today.