By M. Khormai
I am in a room facing a six foot tall giant, wondering how I ever got myself into this situation. Everyone is watching me, and if I don’t fight, then I’ve failed. He starts by picking his leg up to kick and I stand there, raising a hand by my head to block. The blow is powerful and quick, not giving me enough time to prepare for an incoming punch to the head. I try my best to move around and not get hit, landing a few punches and kicks here and there. As I make a cut around to the right, I trip on the goliath’s foot and fall down. It’s all over now! The looming shadow comes closer to me, extends his hand, and helps me up.
That was the end of my black belt graduation.. I did earn my black belt that day, which was a great relief despite my sparring disaster. Fortunately, Master Kim, the owner of the studio, told me “Even if you make a mistake, stay confident until the end. Reinforce your strengths to make me forget the weaknesses.” That day had a huge impact on my life. I overcame the tremendous challenge that had been my black belt test. I learned that confidence would change people’s perceptions for the better, and I began to see how my new inner strength could be applied to other aspects of my life.
My participation in school activities increased as I joined track, orchestra, and chorus. Even so, this did not diminish my time spent at the Tae Kwon Do studio. Master Kim eventually thought that it would be beneficial to have me help teach classes at the studio. It seemed that a new daunting task stood before me.
The first day: I walk into the classroom and start the class. I run through warm ups and stretches, and then Master Kim splits up the students into groups. How many am I going to take? I can’t take more than ten! Questions and doubts run through my head until Master Kim brings two kids over. “This is Arielle and this is Sherman. Teach them their purple belt combinations.” That is simple enough. I spend the rest of the class teaching them curriculum, and they seem to have learned it pretty well now.
The third month: I walk into the classroom and start the class. I run through warm ups and stretches, and then Master Kim splits up the students into groups. I have fifteen kids who need to learn their purple belt curriculum. That is simple enough. I’ll just run through them twice, then break each one down individually while making sure that Lauren, Gaby, and Karin get the extra help that they might need.
Three years later: As a Tae Kwon Do instructor, I have found that teaching does not become any easier, but knowing how to teach does. Classes are always different. I have had to learn to adjust to larger or smaller groups that are comprised of kids with varying levels of discipline. I had to learn to adapt. The art of teaching requires a great deal of planning, a great deal of patience, and a great deal of flexibility. These qualities, though they took time to develop, were absolutely necessary in my journey to becoming not only a good student but also to becoming a good instructor.
I could not have done this on my own. I came up as an assistant instructor along with my friends Peter and Gayan. We were all supervised by Mr. Surage, the head instructor of the studio. After classes were over, we would sit down and discuss all aspects of the studio. We would talk about better teaching methods, what we needed to fix about our own technique, and even what parts of the studio needed cleaning. In the end, the instructors are supposed to be a team that works together to improve the studio. It was that team mentality that helped me become a better fighter.
I am in a room facing a now eight-foot tall giant. I know exactly why I am here. Nobody is watching, but if I don’t fight, then I am not a black belt. He picks up his leg to come in with a strangely circular kick. I sit there and let him miss. Eventually, he swings his hands wildly out of the way and I stick a kick right into his gut. It’s all over now. I’ve won. I walk over to him, hold out my hand, and help him up.