On Saturday May 26th 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, 5/31/12
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 first Tae Kwon Do class 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.
My reasons for studying Tae Kwon Do are simple: 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 more as a way of life. I wish to follow the same mantra that I have heard from 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 when I train I understand the importance of completing 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 observer 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.
When I joined Grand Master Kim’s OMAC in January of 2009 I did so to support my son, and to have an activity in common with him. While Aaron did not immerse himself in Tae Kwon Do, I fell in love with it, with the help and guidance of a couple of special individuals to whom I owe everything. I have on several occasions reevaluated my reasons for dedicating as much time as I do to Tae Kwon Do, both in and out of the Dojang. So many of my students (in IT, not Tae Kwon Do), friends, colleagues, readers, and people I meet on airplanes have heard about my testing by now that I am sure the lot of them are sick of it. My blog (which was chosen as one of the top IT blogs worldwide recently) currently has eight articles on my training and progress… more I recon than I have written about computers in the last month.
As Tae Kwon Do seems to be a big part of my life, then the better question may be what are the goals I have in life, and how do I plan to achieve them?
- I want to continue to lose weight. In preparation for my upcoming test I have lost fifty pounds since January. It has been tough and although I have not hit the goal that I set out for myself, but I did get nearly 80% there… and unlike when I lost a lot of weight in preparation for my first Black Belt, I do not plan to resume my old eating habits after the test. There will be some major celebrating to be sure, but the morning of June 3rd I plan to go out for a jog… and I will not stop doing that as part of my routine.
- I am still not nearly as flexible as I would like to be. I visited an OMAC dojang recently in New Westminster, BC where Master Suh told me that one of the pre-requisites to test for a Black Belt in his system is to be able to do the splits. I am not nearly there, and doubt that I will ever be. I am probably past the age where you would start training your body to do that, and coupled with injuries I have sustained over the years I do not believe it is a realistic goal. However better flexibility is not only possible, it is likely a necessity. I know that I can bend a lot better after the weight loss, and expect that when I have lost the rest of it (that might still take a year) I will be more flexible still. By continuing in Tae Kwon Do, attending classes makes me more flexible every time. I will continue on those two paths.
- I would like to continue to grow in Tae Kwon Do and continue to make it a part of my life… present, past, and future. One of the most important lessons I have learned in my life is that you never know what you do not know. I do not know what the future holds, but I know that I want to continue to do as much as I can. Knowing myself I will continue to push myself harder and will test again, and if all goes well sooner rather than later. However none of us know what the future holds, so my only current goal is to achieve my Second Dan Black Belt.
- In January of 2013 I look forward to bringing my younger son, Gilad, into the Dojang for his first Tiny Tigers class. Gilad was only three weeks old when he watched my 1st Gup (Black/Red Belt) test, and was five months old when he watched my Black Belt test. He hasn’t been to the dojang in a while but every time he comes he watches us kicking, punching, and blocking with such fascination that I cannot help but expect that he will take to Tae Kwon Do like a fish to water, and that he will continue to enjoy it throughout his lifetime. I have spoken with my wife about this and she agrees. One of the many regrets that I have is that my parents did not force me to stick with Karate as a child (No mother, I am not blaming you for anything, and I have little doubt I would have resented you had you forced it. I simply wish I had known then what I know now). Theresa and I agree that Tae Kwon Do will not be considered a sport or an extra-curricular activity; it will simply be part of the routine. When he is old enough to decide for himself and he wants to quit, then let him quit with a Kukkiwon Black Belt certificate… when he is older he will understand the value.
I can go into as many points and details as I like but the reality is that I decided several years ago that I was tired of not achieving my goals. The Black Belt was a goal, and now the Second Dan is a goal. All of these goals are summed up in the words of Grand Master Kim. I want to be a winner!