Venkat Gupta -- Temporary Black Belt

Post date: Apr 15, 2024

My Escape to Endless Learning

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”—Henry Ford

During one summer break, while staying with my grandparents, I had my inaugural encounter with martial arts in India. Curious about the activity, I tagged along with a group of neighborhood kids to explore this new venture. I vividly recall the open school field where the classes took place and the sensation of performing push-ups with folded knuckles as a warm-up routine. Despite being just eleven years old at the time, the physical exertion and newfound sense of strength piqued my interest.

However, it wasn't until July of 2020, amidst the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, that Irevisited martial arts. As a dedicated runner sidelined by injuries, I turned to biking and soughtanother outlet that would not only keep me active but also provide an opportunity for meaningful engagement with my son. This quest led me to Two Rivers Martial Arts, where Tae Kwon Do awaited, beckoning after a hiatus of over three decades.

My initial impressions of the Clive Do Jang were shrouded by masks, concealing both ours and our instructors' faces. Yet, the connection forged in those early days felt intimate, akin to private lessons amidst a world slowly emerging from isolation. With only a handful of students, including my son Siddharth and me, classes often felt like personal coaching sessions, led by dedicated instructors such as Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, Mr. Dale, Mr. Ochiche, and Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead.

Despite initial uncertainties about the age-appropriateness of the classes for Siddharth, when he was five years old, we threw ourselves into training with enthusiasm, attending at least four classes per week. I believe it was October 2020 we went all on Zoom and then we started to see all our teachers. We would go to our basement and do classes which was a different experience.

From where I come from paying respect to elders was a thing we would prefix Mr. or Mrs. or Master but for Siddharth, it was transition and learning and a new way of paying respect to our teachers and their rank in Tae Know Do. For me, it was a way for both of us “Father and Son” to build memories and a bond but at the same time, the tenets were very important to engrain in us.

Soon, Siddharth's progress, marked by belt advancements and tournament victories, ignited a newfound passion and commitment to the discipline. Even during my absence due to familial obligations in India during the height of the pandemic, Siddharth's unwavering dedication to training served as a source of motivation, compelling him to excel and lead by example in my absence.

In May of 2022 when the board resumed the Friday classes at the hub and art classes for Green and above we started to meet students from other branches and many new teachers.

Very thankful to many classes from Grand Master Gonzalez, Grand Master Ferguson, Grand Master Williams, Master Siever, Master Netsch, Master Kramer, Master Goldstein, Ms.Douglass, Ms.Xaykose, Mrs. Whitehead, Ms. Whitehead, Ms. Mitchell, and Mr. Mitchell. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few names but the list of mentors that have broadened my understanding of martial arts and enriched my training experience immeasurably.

Finding the balance between my work that requires travel and bringing consistency and focus was a need in preparing for the temp test. Words cannot do justice to the dedication and devotion of our teachers with special thanks and gratitude to Master Bailey, Mr. Bailey, and Mr. Whitehead.

Reflecting on the past four years, I am struck by the profound transformation wrought by my commitment to martial arts. The principles of discipline, dedication, devotion, and determination—embodied in the five core tenets of Tae Kwon Do—have permeated every aspect of my life, fostering resilience and fortitude in the face of challenges. I feel very lucky I stumbled upon my teachers and my school which is feeding my soul, my health, my passion, and my escape to endless learning.

As I embark on the next phase of my journey, I am filled with gratitude for the community at Two Rivers Martial Arts and the invaluable lessons imparted by my teachers. With each class, I am reminded of the profound impact of martial arts on my well-being, instilling a sense of purpose and fulfillment that extends far beyond the confines of the dojang.

In closing, I am eager to pay forward the wisdom and guidance bestowed upon me, aspiring to become not only a skilled practitioner but also a mentor and advocate for martial arts within my community. My journey is far from over, but in this moment, I stand indebted to Two Rivers and its esteemed instructors, poised to embrace the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

Pil Sung

Venkat Gupta