Todd Dooley -- First Dan

Post date: Sep 29, 2014 5:50:29 PM

    The date was January 30th, 2010.  I sat outside this place called “The Hub” in my truck; smoking what I hoped would be 1 of my last cigarettes.  I got talked into coming over to the south side of Des Moines to check out a Tae Kwon Do class by Mr. Shaw, as I was literally looking for anything to assist in helping me quit “killing myself to live” (i.e., smoking cigarettes).  I’ll never forget that day. As I walked into the building everyone I met looked me in the eye and said hello.  Everyone was very cordial and welcoming, even though they didn’t know me from “Adam” so to speak.

    I would start my Tae Kwon Do journey the next weekend.  As I sat down on the floor with Master Hammer, I knew this was it. Master Hammer was very welcoming, and to this day I don’t think he knows how much of an effect he has had on my journey.  I’ve made sure to let him know in person that the 30 or so minutes he spent with me had a dramatic impact. I have tried Martial Arts before in life (Judo, Karate, Tae Kwon Do twice), but I knew it would be different this time.  I would be a SE Polk student training under Mr. Bond for the foreseeable future.

    The 1st month was very challenging as I tried to work my body out of a physical “slumber” and into shape to handle Tae Kwon Do workouts.  I had a few classes behind me when the 1st Bethany tournament hit my radar.  I really only knew a few basic moves, and my form Chon-Ji. As a white belt, I participated in the Board Break & Forms competition. Turns out I tied for 1st in Forms, and went to the Grand Championship round, where I won 1st again.  It was right then I knew the bar had been raised.

    Over the next few months, I started working out in the mornings trying to get my body into shape to keep raising the bar to my own standards / vision of what I could become as a Martial Artist. In September of 2010, I built my own Do-Jang in my house. It was around that time I became a Green Belt and would start going to 1 Friday night class a month. My 1st class I was “tagged” a couple of times when sparring with Black Belts, and knew I had to work on my sparring skills in addition to everything else.  I kept the attitude of just trying my hardest, and not get down on myself.  The main thing I did not do was judge myself in relation to everyone else. I kept telling myself this was my journey and to do the best I could.   

It has literally felt as if belts have been coming and going very quickly, so it has been important to me to just enjoy every workout, and try my hardest every time I’m in the Do-Jang.  I have had a broken rib, shoulder & back injuries, foot injuries, and even pulled some muscles in places where I didn’t think I could pull them.  The more I workout, the better I know my body and what I am capable of. I have done things I didn’t think I could do when I started, but my perseverance has been “fruitful” in trying to get things to happen.

I think as a 1st Gup Permanent Brown Belt staring down what may be the most mentally and physically challenging thing I’ve ever done, in a Temporary Black Belt Tae Kwon Do Test, the best thing about my journey so far is two-fold.  1 being my mental and physical health.  The other is the friends I have made along the way. I honestly feel I am a part of something special.

I want to succeed in this Test not only for my own goals, but for my instructors and other Black Belts who have spent countless hours guiding & training me. I want to succeed for those who have had patience with me while I battle injuries and life’s inherent struggles that have caused me to miss entire sessions, and for my family who has seen the best in me even when I don’t.

    The vision that I started out with in February 2010 is finally starting to come to fruition, but I remind myself daily that it is yet another step in my life’s journey…for that I will always be thankful for my instructors, friends, and family. The list starts with my primary instructors Mr. Bond and currently Master Williams who have taught me countless lessons in Tae Kwon Do and life itself.  Two Rivers senior student/instructor Master Clinton who may not know how much she has taught me, mostly by giving me confidence in our random talks; always with a smile and making me feel like I was the most important person in the world at that point in time.  Master Ferguson has been my “Saturday” instructor for the duration of my “Brown Belt” time spending hour after hour sitting in front of me after class calling out forms and 1-steps, or standing next to me while I work on movements in front of the mirror…all while smiling no matter how many times I mess up. The list of people who have impacted me seems to never end (Mr. Siever, Mr. Gookin, Master Deaton, Mr. Shaw, Master Hammar, etc), and for that I’m truly blessed. And most notably my family and friends, without their support I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

Peace, and Pil-Sung

Todd Dooley