Tae Kwon Do: The Metamorphosis
Grand Master James S. Benko
When I first started my Tae Kwon Do training, I was only 6 years old.
We had just moved to Lapeer, Michigan a couple months before I joined and
everything seemed like I was in another world. My parents really wanted
me to join, because they knew what it could do for me. I remember walking
into the dojang for the first time. Everything seemed so crowded at
the time, because it was when we only had the small dojang to train in.
My parents had left me so that I could watch the kids all practicing
and training. I got so nervous that I went outside and laid down in the
grass. That shows you how shy I was in the beginning.
When I came back in the head of the dojang, Master Anne-Marie J. Curell,
comforted me, and I felt a little better. Now, I realize that it couldn't
have been that crowded because there was only 5 people training. I have
to admit I was scared to death. I was entering a world that I only
recognized in the movies. A world in which I thought I could never truly
belong. I thought I wasn't going to be doing it for as long as I have been.
When I went to my first class I again felt very nervous because everyone
was staring at me. The first student I really connected with was
Mr. Kenneth Patrick, and he really helped me out on learning all of my
basics even though he was a beginner too. When I was younger I was really
shy, so it was hard for me to talk openly with new people and to have a
good time with them. I was always scared they weren't going to like me.
But, after my first class was over I was really looking forward to my
The instructors introduced me to the class as "Mr. Kim". I had
never been address as "Mister Kim". With that new name I started to
become a different and more outgoing and friendly person. With that
name that was given to me in Tae Kwon Do class, I had found my true
Because of my training I not only improved my physical condition but also
mentally and emotionally. I wasn't always nervous anymore, and I became
more sure of myself. I can definitely say that it boosted my self-esteem.
I have become popular with my friends, and I am not shy or scared anymore.
Physically, I have become stronger and quicker. I feel that I could defend
myself in case of an emergency. I have learned how to show good techniques
in front of an audience, such as at demonstrations I have been in since
approximately 4 years ago. I feel that I am in pretty good shape, and
I feel good about myself and my body.
I used to be bothered by kids, but now it's like they look up to me. They
say things like ''WOW! You're a real black belt, I can't believe it."
Even when I go into public places like the grocery store with my uniform
on people say "Look Mom, He's a black belt.'' Occasionally there are the
people that just don't understand what it's all about and they snicker
behind my back and make fun of "Karate", but to these people I
don't even give a second thought. Actually in a way I feel sorry for
them. They must really think low of themselves to be making fun of others
to make themselves feel better, or to have a good laugh. If I wasn't in
Tae Kwon Do and people were to make fun of me I would probably have
been very upset. I have learned to be responsible, and this I also
partially owe to Tae Kwon Do. When my instructors give me something to
do for them, you have to do it, therefore you learn that there are
important things to do other than just goofing off or talking all the time.
I like to help other people. That part wasn't too big of a problem for me.
I trained as hard and as well as I could and finally I tested for my
first Dan of my black belt. That was another frightening moment for me,
and I'm sure it was and is still a very frightening experience for anyone.
I thought to myself... "Finally all the hard work paid off and it's going
to be easy from here on out." NO NO NO! That is not how it happened. I
also thought... "All right, no more of those grueling summer camps, or
having to go to sometimes 4 or 5 classes a week." Now I look back at
all those thoughts and laugh at them. How could I have been so stupid?
The Summer Camps now that I go to are the Black Belt camps, and
trust me those are definitely much harder than the gup ones. There was
also so much more responsibility I had to take on after receiving my
black belt. Although there is much more work involved in being a black
belt I would never want to become a gup again.
Sun Hee Kim (left)
When I became an instructor, I swore to keep this oath no matter what.
I would like to talk about the last line of this oath. "I am proud of
the art that I teach." I am so thankful that the art that I am learning
is the traditional Korean style. My family is from Korea, and
from my training I have learned a lot of the history of the country,
and I also get to use the language outside of my home, and church. I am
very proud of where my family comes from.
I thought teaching was going to be so easy just as I thought that being
a black belt was going to be easy. Once again, I was proven wrong.
But actually I have learned that teaching takes a lot of patience and
self-control, and you need much discipline. Sometimes students don't
listen to you because they have no clue what is going on. This is when
it gets hard for me to teach. This is when I have to break it down step
by step and bit by bit. Whenever I start to get discouraged, I say to
myself "I can do this", and recite the instructor's oath in my head.
I don't want to get discouraged though because if I show the student that
I am discouraged the student will start to stop trying. Sometimes, I get
so upset with myself for not teaching the best that I know I can teach
and I punish myself in my head. I say to myself "Why did I do that?"
and "That was such a waste of time!" Now I understand that my ability
to teach does not come from my mouth, but from my mind and even more
from my heart.
If I hadn't joined Tae Kwon Do, I would not have the knowledge of certain
things that I do now. There is one tenant of Tae Kwon Do, that I look up
to the most. It is indomitable spirit. To me this means that
you never give up and you always are trying with a smile on your face.
You keep going with the strongest of emotional strengths. It relates
to perseverance as well, but for some reason I feel that indomitable
spirit is very spiritual, it's something that comes out from the inside,
and only you can see it. It's like a voice that urges you to keep going,
whether or not it is physical demands that need to be met, or just doing
something very simple like helping your parents do a little job at home.
Indomitable spirit comes from your heart, and it is definitely something
that you can feel.
Tae Kwon Do taught me to be a leader. Without the art of
Tae Kwon Do, I would not be the same person that I am today. With the
help of people that really care for me, it has lead me up to this day.
My testing for my 2nd Dan. A day that I would never have thought would
have ever arrived for me. I am amazed that it has, and I am praying
that I can show my Master, what a true leader I have become. From that
day when I was six years old, when I needed to be comforted, I feel
that I am finally ready and able, to comfort others.
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