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The image above is of Grandmaster Kang Shin-Chul. He is 61 years old! It is my goal to be able to stretch well enough to kick like him! My kicks do not look like his kicks! My stretching is getting better, but I am no where close to Grandmaster! But, I will keep on stretching, trying my best!

A while ago, a parent said that they did not want their child to test because their child’s kicks did not look like the kicks of others in the class. I explained to that father that it was okay because through practice and time the kicks will get better.

In our conversation I used myself as the example: I have been practicing Tornado kick for more than 10 years. And still it is not where I want it to be. And it may never be as good as other masters, and that is okay because I can only do what I am able to do at that moment. If we are doing our best, there is nothing better than our best at that moment.

Over time our best will increase. It may be very slowly. It may be very hard. But, if we keep doing our best, we will get better.

The problem is that we compare ourselves to others, and place a “should” on our practice. I have been through this myself! At times in my practice of Taekwondo I would tell myself that: “I should be able to spin faster in my Spinning Hook Kick! “ Or “I should be able to spin faster in my jump spinning hook kick!” But, in the end the “should” that we place on ourselves (or our children) in regards to growth within Taekwondo (and elsewhere in our lives) only leads to our own disappointment and discouragement.

Now, I have been focusing on how I am getting better. Little things are now big celebrations for me! And I take this philosophy and pass it on to our students. A little growth, just a little harder kick; a louder kiyap - all of it gets celebrated! These little celebrations reinforce the practice and ultimately encourage better Taekwondo! (And it’s fun to cheer for someone when they do well!)

We may all never look like Grandmaster Kang Shin-Chul, but we can all be better selves in our practice of Taekwondo. Let’s celebrate each other in class and every where we go!

It just might make our lives and other people’s lives better! And isn’t that what we are here for?

Master James Thamm

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When we start learning Taekwondo, we begin at white belt!  The uniform is crisp and clean-sparkling clean!  Our white belt is bright white!  Every day is something new! A new kick or a new stance.  The learning is so exciting!  

Over time we progress through the colored belt levels.  We learn new poomsaes.  We learn hand techniques.  We practice and test.  And then practice and test some more. Eventually after years of practicing, we test for Black Belt!  And when we pass our Black Belt exam, we have made it!          We have finally made it!  We are a Black Belt!  Woo hoo!  

Unfortunately many times when a student gets to Black Belt, they quit.  This makes me very sad because they are missing out on the rewards of learning Taekwondo.  They are missing out on putting all the pieces together.  They are missing out on their Taekwondo practice becoming more purposeful and more meaningful.   It is as if they believe that being a Black Belt is all there is to learning in Taekwondo! And that's too bad because it is at Black Belt that real Taekwondo learning begins!  The years of colored belt practicing, testing and advancing are just Taekwondo foundation building.  The real Taekwondo learning begins at Black Belt.

The first class I attended after passing my First Dan Black Belt exam, I lined up behind a long line of higher Black Belts.  There were Fourth Dans (Masters) and Fifth Dans in the class!  I looked at the higher Black Belts and I realized how much I did not know!  I realized that I was just a young child in Taekwondo even though I was 40 years old!  I was no longer an infant but still only a child in my Taekwondo learning.  It was at this moment that I became very humble. The strutting I had been doing after passing my Black Belt ended forever. 

After many years of training, I still have so much more to learn.  I look forward to putting more pieces of the puzzle called Taekwondo together.   

So,what is the answer to the question, "When Does Taekwondo Learning Stop?" 

The answer is that the learning never stops, it continues for the rest of our lives.

Master James Thamm

 

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