Not just a sport

By Khrystyna Halatyma
Executive In-Depth Editor|
Before starting taekwondo I made a promise to myself: to commit fully and get my black belt, no matter what. This turned out to be more complicated than I first imagined. Through switching dojos and getting used to new Taekwondo masters the day has finally come, November 10th – my black belt test.
But the test really isn’t that important. It’s just the destination and what I’ve learned can be summed up by American author Greg Anderson, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Here is my journey.
Taekwondo taught me life lessons which could not be taught in a classroom, lecture or textbook. They came from experience and an atmosphere of a taekwondo class. There is almost no way to describe it. The familiar warmth of seeing your taekwondo family; knowing you are all there for the same reason, the same goal, striving to be better people as well as athletes, and helping each other along the way.
Whether it’s holding up a helping hand to someone who has fallen down or being on the receiving end, being helped up. There will always be someone to support you every step of the way – instructors, masters or classmates. This is the unique aspect of a taekwondo family. This is what makes us who we are.
I remember my very first few taekwondo classes. I would see my friends the next day and say, “Look what I learned!” and demonstrate a roundhouse kick step-by-step. It took a long time for the realization to hit, but taekwondo is not about learning kicks and techniques.
Look deeper. Yes, I can demonstrate how to do a roundhouse, spin or hook kick, but if that is the only thing a person has to say after their experience, then they have failed.
Taekwondo has taught me respect, patience, perseverance and control. Respect came from my taekwondo masters. The tradition of answering, “Yes sir, yes ma’am” was daunting at first, and took time to get used to. It taught me not just to respect my taekwondo masters and instructors, but anyone I meet in my life.
Patience came from not only learning techniques, but teaching them as well. It taught me not to get frustrated with students I am helping just because they don’t understand the first few times, because I remembered I was the same way and my instructors didn’t give up on me.
Perseverance came from the multiple belts and tests we were required to take. They seemed unnecessary at first and I kept thinking, “Come on, I just want to get my black belt.”
Now I am grateful for all the tests, they forced me to slow down and take my eyes off the goal, to look at where I was, not focus on where I wanted to be. Once the focus was turned onto the present the stress flew away, replaced by a feeling of satisfaction. Some of my favorite quotes are, “Do not give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass any way.” and “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
Almost three years have passed and I am finally about to accomplish my goal. Perseverance has paid off and it was worth every last second. Control came from forms, which clear the mind. Control is the hardest aspect to gain, it takes years of practice. Even though I am nowhere near having full control of myself, I am closer than I was three years ago, and for that I am grateful.
It is more than the lessons you learn in class, there are lessons which changed my outlook towards life. Some I could not have gained anywhere else – confidence in myself, responsibility and personal growth.
I started taekwondo in eighth grade and, as any middle school student; I had confidence in myself while I was surrounded by friends. Take that away and I’m magically transformed into a shy mouse.  With taekwondo I found my voice. Not only to speak up when I am surrounded by people who care about me, but to be heard even when I stand alone in a crowd. When track season had started and there was a pile of homework on my desk responsibility I what got me to class. Even though I had had three hours of practice that day I showed up for class, because I knew I was supposed to.
It was my duty as well as my dedication. The most important thing is that I went of my own accord. No one had to force to me go, no one had to remind me I had class that night. I was my own motivation. Not only that, but I enjoyed going to class. No matter what had happened that day, good or bad, when I got to taekwondo there was a smile on my face.
One of my best memories is of my taekwondo master, Master Lee, before he moved to Florida. He used to always have to tell me to stop smiling when I did my form, but I could never do it. I didn’t see a reason to. And even though he pushed us hard, he taught me the worth of hard work. The more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.
Taekwondo teaches you to get back up every time you fall down. At times, you will have to get up by yourself, but with the knowledge that there are people cheering you on. There is no quitting, there is no giving up. You discover that your strength, whether physical, mental or emotional, is so much more powerful than you ever could have imagined.
This is taekwondo. There are aspects which cannot be taught or shown, these are the most powerful and dynamic corners of the sport. These aspects are ones that very few realize, ones we have to discover on our own, ones which can only be deemed through personal experience and physical endurance. It takes all you’ve got and then some. Patience, energy, endurance. Incredible, unstoppable, unimaginable. This is redefining your impossible. This is taekwondo. This is – White Tiger Martial Arts.