Monday, January 24, 2011

The Tae Kwon Do Kid?

I finally got around to watching Karate Kid, the remake, this weekend. Let me clarify that--I watched the first part of the movie--that was enough for me.

I wanted to see it for two reasons:
  • it was filmed in China! I wanted to see that. I've had students from China, and wanted to see some video footage of their home country
  • it was about martial arts. I wanted to see this movie's take on martial arts.
If you've seen it, you'll know the movie was pretty badly acted. I don't remember that the original was any prize, but this one seemed to be worse. But there were cool scenes from contemporary China.

There were also fighting scenes, but that's not exactly what I wanted to see in terms of martial arts.

That's the one big misunderstanding people have about martial arts: if you study martial arts, you are studying how to fight and beat people up.

Certainly, you learn how to strike and kick and block. You work toward sparring, which is a kind of ritualized, structured, competitive fight. But anyone who's trained seriously in martial arts will tell you that the heart of martial arts isn't fighting.

One outcome of my martial arts training was that I learned how--and practiced how--to focus on the now. When you're training in martial arts, you can't be thinking about how your day went, or worrying about the next day. You have to be in the moment of each block, each kick, each strike.

Then of course, there are the tenets of Tae Kwon Do, those values that are at the heart of TKD: courtesy, integrity, perseverence, self-control (no revenge fantasy acting-out!), indomitable spirit. Learning TKD forces you to practice these, and then you go on to use them in everyday life. You just do.

I could go on about this in great detail, but maybe that's enough.

So about the movie. The Jackie Chan character said one line that has stuck with me and seems to ring truer about martial arts than the revenge fantasy plot of the movie. I don't remember the exact words he used, but it was something like

"Kung Fu is in everything we do."

Maybe that sounds corny (it's especially corny because practitioners call the art wushu), but it's so true of martial arts! When I was training seriously, Tae Kwon Do was in everything I did. I carried that ability to focus into everything I did outside the dojang. The tenets of Tae Kwon Do became embedded in the way I did everything.

So now, it's been over a year since I've trained seriously. I'm starting to work out once a week with some other black belts. My arms and legs, arms especially, feel like spaghetti, but I'm still trying to get the moves back.

I hope I can also recapture that "Tae Kwon Do is in everything we do" attitude as well.

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