T-5: Part One

This past Saturday I pre-tested for my Second Dan Black Belt test.  The actual test is this coming Saturday, June 2.  The Second Dan candidates were given a writing assignment to complete: “My Future Goals in Tae Kwon Do and Why I Want to Achieve Them.”  I spent most of Sunday thinking about this, and writing.  On the advice of Master Beis what began as a twenty-five hundred word essay has now been edited down into two more manageable articles.  Only the second of these, which I will publish later in the week, will be submitted to my Grand Master this afternoon.  I look forward to hearing your opinions about this first piece. –Mitch Garvis, 5/28/12

When I was seven years old I attended my first organized martial arts classes. Sensei Yaki Mendel taught us to count in Japanese, and taught us stances and punches. I was not a very athletic child, and had enough trouble getting my gi on properly. My friend Mark Nadler and I lasted ten classes, then called it quits.

Over the course of the next three decades I took up and eventually dropped several martial arts. That is not to say that when I walked into GrandMaster Kim’s OMAC in January, 2009 I was not a good fighter – the Krav Maga I picked up in the army has won more than a few fights over the years – but I was never really a martial artist.

If the truth is to be told, from that day it would take another seventeen months for me to call myself a real martial artist, although I had probably used the term anyways. It was then – on June 12, 2010 – that I earned my Black Belt.

English: vector version of Black belt 2st dan.png
English: vector version of Black belt 2st dan.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In five days I, along with a handful of other students at our school will be testing for our next belt. Valerie, Teresa, Corwin, Alex, and I will be the five who are vying for promotion from First Dan to Second Dan. I speak for nobody but myself, but can only assume that the others have worked as hard as I have to get to this point. I know that at the pre-test on Saturday we were all working well together, and that although we are a small group, I think we are one that will make a big bang at the actual test.

In the past few weeks I have written a lot about Tae Kwon Do, my thoughts, and inspirations. But when I was asked to write about my future goals in Tae Kwon Do (and why I want to achieve them) I had to pause to think about that for a day before sitting down to write.

I am of three minds: The Young Mitch, the Wise and Pragmatic Mitch, and the testing in Five Days Mitch.

As I look at the calendar and realize that, young as I may feel inside, I am turning forty years old in less than six weeks. An optometrist actually prescribed me bifocals last week, so it is getting hard to deny that I am no longer young. Nevertheless I still feel young in many ways, so Young Mitch says that I aspire to be a Master – a Grand Master even. I want to open my own schools and franchise my own brand of Tae Kwon Do. I want to make a loud bang that is heard around the world.

Wise and Pragmatic Mitch lives in the real world, and knows several truths. The first of these is that I am turning forty and have a pretty good career in IT, and that aside from being a pretty lousy entrepreneur and however good I may ever be at martial arts I will likely always be better at IT, training, and mentoring than I ever could be running my own schools. I have also learned that the best way to achieve any lofty goal is to start by setting shorter term goals. As John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ Every long-term plan I ever made got interrupted by what would eventually happen, better or worse. I also know that as hard as the first and second Black Belts were to achieve the next ones will just get harder, and I do not know (based on my career and family needs) how much time I will be able to dedicate to Tae Kwon Do. I know that I can continue to advance, but at what rate? I do not know. I would love to become a Master one day but…

…Testing in Five Days Mitch is singularly focused on my Second Dan Black Belt test that is coming up this coming Saturday. I am so focused that I cannot see beyond that. I am eating, sleeping, breathing, and living the requirements for my test. I have to be out of town this week but have asked the Grand Master’s permission to visit a Dojang in Montreal to train, and I will be there a couple of nights this week in addition to intense jogging on Mount Royal. I plan to be back on Friday for the lunch class, and hope to spend that entire day in training, practice, and meditation. I will do everything that I can to be ready for Saturday… but if you want to know what is going to happen Sunday then I have no idea of anything beyond that. From a logistical perspective I know that I am getting onto a plane Monday morning, but my immediate focus is Saturday; Sunday will take care of Sunday, and once I am past this goal I will be able to refocus my attention on other things.

Whatever angle you look at it from my goals in martial arts have certainly evolved over the years. I remember wanting to be a ninja… then when I decided I wanted to be a soldier I wanted to learn the secrets of the best martial artists – how to repel attackers, armed or otherwise – with my bare hands, and how to disarm, disable, and kill them. When I had hatred in my heart I wanted my hands to be weapons.

Today my goal is much less violent. My goal in Tae Kwon Do is to find an inner peace that I have not known in my life. I practice to be a better me, and to escape who I used to be. That does not mean that I wish to learn Tae Kwon Do as a sport, but I as a way of life. I wish to follow the same mantra that I have heard from only a few wise martial artists in the past: we train to fight so that we will never need to fight. That is why I prefer Poomsae (pattern) training over sparring.

Unfortunately the pragmatic side to me knows that the real world is not as peaceful as I would wish for it to be, and there are places that I travel that are not as safe as Oakville. In the past year I have had to fight – not for honour, not for glory, but to save my life in situations where there was no alternative. That is why I train as a killer and not as an athlete. When I train I complete every punch and kick and block as if there was an invisible enemy facing me. People have commented that there is a look of anger in my eyes when I perform my patterns, but they are misinterpreting the look; it is the look of pure focus in my eyes that an opponent might misinterpret as anger… but if in a real-life situation it convinces that opponent that fighting me would not be a good idea then they can call it what they like… it has done the job.


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