My daughter has been taking Taekwondo for 4 years now. Not long ago she earned her first degree black belt. One of the things we learned early on in her TKD career was that she truly enjoyed tournaments. Now, tournaments are a very long day. Well, they don't have to be. But even as an orange belt, she enjoyed going early and watching the competitions, the weapons, the creatives, the extreme divisions. And I watched her eyes light up as the competitors did their flips and tricks. Recently, she decided that her goal was to become a state champion. And she also wanted to start competing with the bo staff. Enter the crazy expense, equipment, private lessons, extra practice time, and stress.
This weekend was Missy's first weapons competition. She was competing in 4 events in total: Creative Weapons, Traditional Weapons, Traditional Forms, and Sparring. My husband's division was called at 8 a.m. which meant we were up at 6 a.m. and on the road at 7. (He did pretty damn well himself, too!!) Missy's Creative Weapons division was called at 10:15. I thought the stress might eat her alive. Not only was it the first time she'd ever competed in this event but she also ended up competing against the current world champion. And he was phenomenal. But even with the butterflies in her belly and her nails bitten down, her performance was fantastic. She was focused and energetic and she was absolutely amazing. Even her instructor made sure to tell her that it was the best form he'd seen her do.
At the end of the day, she left with 3 2nd place medals and a 1st place medal. But that was not what made me the most proud. I saw my Missy decide on a goal and do everything within her power to achieve it. I saw her put in the practice time without complaint. At the tournament I watched her helping some of her classmates practice before their divisions were called. I saw her overcome her fears, no matter how great they were. I saw her calm the nerves of kids who had never competed before. I watched her cheer on the girls in her division that she was competing against. I watched her being a leader.
For Missy, Taekwondo goes so far beyond front kicks and back fists. What she learns from martial arts is a set of life lessons that will carry her into her adulthood. And for that, I am truly grateful. Grateful to the instructors who believe in her and encourage her and teach her all of these wonderful lessons. I am thankful that my daughter has learned these things. But most of all, I am so proud of the confidence she displays because of Taekwondo. I wasn't sure I'd ever see that sort of confidence. But it's there! It is truly there!
Missy with 8th degree black belt Chief Master M.K. Lee