from scratch

On starting over:

It's been thirteen years since I've practiced tae kwon do. The last time I took a martial arts class, I was fifteen and a first-degree black belt. I've swung my legs around in some approximations of inside crescent kicks since then, and have never forgotten how to say "sidekick break and elbow strike break, sir" in Korean, but that's all I retained.
All, I suppose, except a desire to go back and try again, and to put my body and my mind through that test again to see... what? To see if I can do it? To see if I'm "good" at it? To see if that wondrous feeling of power and confidence can be picked back up, I think.

I'm starting from nothing on this project. There's a little tiny bit of muscle memory, and the knowledge that yes, one's leg is supposed to hook like so on this particular kick, and not to hook at all on that kick, and there's a specific angle necessary to maximize effectiveness on that, but that's really all. And for someone who really, really likes (needs) to be really, really good at everything I do, this is really fucking hard. It's hard to let my ego go and to accept the knowledge that a classroom full of mirrors is showing my every struggle to a room full of middle-schoolers. (Middle-schoolers, by the way, who are throwing these amazingly powerful spinning roundhouse kicks.) It's hard not to think back to what I was once capable of in tae kwon do practice, and how effortless it seemed so long ago, and not to get frustrated with my current lack of ability.

It's humbling. More than that, it's a devastatingly effective leveler. It's created a peculiar sense of self-awareness in those moments of practice, and I'm learning just to focus on the immediate task at hand (extend your heel, crook your elbow, pivot on your front foot, bring your knee back to center), lest I lose concentration and take a blow to the skull.

Somewhere, there's a photo of me, age fourteen, at the testing for my black belt. As I remember it, in this photo I'm extending a beautiful sidekick through two 1" white pine boards, and I have a look on my face that says I knew this was possible.
I remember that testing, and that break, and I recall that the look on my face didn't match the processes of my brain: my brain was scared, and apprehensive, and wanted to back off. But I shut that part of my brain up and did it anyway.

I'm standing in a classroom of adolescents several days each week, thirteen years later, making every effort to embrace that duality: do it anyway.

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