A new art for me…

I had my orientation session to my new Tae Kwon Do school on Friday afternoon, followed by my first class.  I am way excited about this new endeavor.

The instructor who provided my orientation asked what had drawn me to this practice – a pretty cool question and an indication right there of how this school focuses on your personal process.  I talked about having bipolar disorder and how I hope that this practice could

  • stir up my life energy when I am depressed – get me unstuck
  • ground me when I am manic
  • generally get me out of my head and into my body.

I said that I would like more exercise and that I think this could help me stay in shape, but this was almost an afterthought.  Writing this now (Friday evening) is the first I have thought that this practice might build self-confidence and help me feel better about myself (especially when I’m down, when this is a problem area).  Self-defense is not really on the screen for me – and the instructor told me that out of 500 people in the school there are probably about five who practice primarily for self-defense.

I had some concerns that these goals might sound kind of airy-fairy to this martial arts instructor, but to the contrary he described outcomes – including some in his own life – that were at least as broad as mine.  He said that the practice very centrally helps you get more presence – and what I would call mindfulness.  You are less likely to lose your keys, because you are more conscious when you set them down. He talked about ways the practice shifted the way he is in the world, how he relates to himself and others.

The Korean Tae Kwon Do team for the 2012 Olympics.  My legs don't stretch quite this far yet.  "Hey teach, is it OK if I just kick him in the knee?"

The Korean Tae Kwon Do team for the 2012 Olympics. My legs don’t stretch quite this far yet. “Hey teach, is it OK if I just kick him in the knee?”

He talked about one element of practice where you give feedback to each other about what you noticed in the way the other person performed the form – with all students participating in this, so that at a mixed rank class a white belt student could be giving feedback to a black belt.  He described how important it is at the school to break through any sense of hierarchy and that even if this system sometimes generates some not-useful feedback, it’s worth it for the benefits in creating an open atmosphere.

Before my orientation, I watched a kid’s class in which the instructor had students get in pairs and ask each other “What’s been a highlight of your day?”  This young woman comes through my line at the grocery store – I think she stole my line!  I hope she did.

My class was tough, even at beginner level.  But I had the sense that it was tough for a very good reason – because it was requiring me to get out of my head and into my body.  And the instructors and other students are very warm and welcoming and supportive.  I had told the instructor that I would need to leave a few minutes early.  When I bowed off of the mat, she said to the group “Majo had an awesome first class today – let’s give him a big hand.”  Which the forty or so people on the mat enthusiastically did.  I bet they do this for everybody after their first class.  I actually hope they do.  It’s a beautiful thing to do – and it felt great.

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