A little over a month ago we put our three year old in a Taekwondo class, which meets three days a week. Considering the fact that our daughter was walking around her playroom kicking and punching her stuffed animals followed by an audible “hi ya!” we figured it was time to do something about it. And she loves it. Especially her little Tiger Cub pledge that she had to remember for her first test. ”I promise to use Taekwondo, in class, to escape from strangers. I promise not to use Taekwondo, for trouble!” So super cute. Watching her say that in the best 3 year old diction possible is the most adorable thing I’ve witnessed to date. That being said, I am thrilled that she’s learning to stay away from strangers and to be a tough girl. The facility we take her to mentioned that a parent can take classes free of charge for an entire year, so I decided to take the plunge and sign up. Ah yes… 35 years old and starting a martial art. It sounded sketchy to me too.
A week later, I showed up to my first “adult” class. As I pulled back the door, a waft of warm mats and feet hit me in the face. Three pimply-faced young men greeted me as I entered the studio. ”Hi. Is this the adult class?” I asked.
“Yes ma’am,” said the tall gangly one. Oh God, I thought. Ma’am? That makes me feel so freaking old! I placed my belongings near the door, just in case I had to escape early, but against my better judgment, I stepped onto the mat to await my workout. The instructor emerged from the bathroom, and to my surprise, it was my daughter’s teacher. Puzzled, he looked at me and said, ”Mrs. Weisser?”
“Yes. I’m. Um. Here for the class?” I replied with the same confusion.
A wide smile carved its way across his face as he welcomed me in. I have never taken a class in martial arts before, so this entire endeavor was an oddity to me. The strict nature of it all is really against my non-conformist personality. But I really love a challenge, so I dedicated myself to opening up my mind to something new. I was terrified. I believe our instructor wanted to make an example of his toughness by making the class that day––extra difficult. And it was. Push-ups galore followed by squats and kicks made me very sore… and unsure of why I chose to take the class. In Taekwondo leadership is marked by experience, not age. So I was stuck in the back of the class to watch the kids in front of me kick ass. It was odd. But I was thankful to be in the back––seeing that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
My instructor is a sweet, young man. I believe he’s 22. And the young boys in the class absolutely adore him. He tells them stories of his experiences with martial arts and how hard it was for him “back in the day” when you’d go home with broken bones… “They don’t let you do that anymore,” he says. ”That’s how it was for me though,” as if he is a tougher person for it. The young men are impressed and hang on every line. They even throw in their own stories of male-hormone-driven stunts and I yawn internally. Not impressed. But I pretend to be very interested. I really just want to learn and do well. I’m not comfortable here yet to be telling tales are hearing them.
I digress. After my first few classes, I finally meet actual adults. Another mom is in my class. She’s my age, but has been doing this a couple of years. I revere her dedication to something I haven’t truly decided is for me yet. And she helps me in class when I screw up… which is often. There are many men, 40 and above who are Level 2 black belts that truly impress me and they’re equally has helpful. Even though I’m a novice, I’m starting to like it. I’ve even asked the kids to stop calling me ma’am in class and they think I’m funny.
But funny is taking my first test last week. It was really terrifying. The severity of it all. It’s so formal. All the “yes sirs” and running to your place and doing your forms correctly for a panel of judges. But my daughter watched from the sidelines and kept giving me a thumbs-up. She was so proud of her mom. I know that even if I wanted to quit now, I couldn’t. She thinks it’s “so awesome.” Oh dear.