Monday, January 9, 2017

Lessons learned at Tae Kwon Do

Recently my daughters and I joined a Tae Kwon Do class. If
you are struggling (or snickering) as you imagine me as the oldest white belt in a class filled with people under 12, that's ok I understand.    It's pretty funny.  Especially when we are crab walking.  Or frog jumping.  Or I am lying on the gym floor wondering if I just did irreparable damage to my body.  Besides all the hilarity, and amazing physical benefits, Tae Kwon Do has taught me spiritual lessons as well.

Lesson 1- You have to go to church.  It is not always easy on Tuesday night to get the kids fed, homework done, the chores accomplished, get in the cold car and drive over to the gym.  Often it would be easier to stay home.  I could make a thousand excuses, "I'm tired." "I've got to get XYZ done." "We just need some family time." But the fact is if I have any hope of progressing in this martial art, if I want my hyper 8 year old to get the benefit of the discipline or my 15 year old to develop the love and habit of taking care of her body, then I have to go.  Do I need to belabor the metaphor?  It's easy to miss church, there are a thousand excuses and it's hard to get it together sometimes but the fact is you can't get the benefits if you aren't there.  

Lesson 2- It's not enough to go to church.  Our teacher frequently encourages us not to miss class but he also reminds us that showing up twice a week is not enough.  If we want to progress, we have to practice at home.  Although we can practice a punch 10 or 15 times in class, it may take 100 or more repetitions to build the muscle memory we need.  Every bit of practice at home makes the next class easier and more enjoyable.  Even practicing once at home for every class doubles our skill and halves the time it takes to progress.  In other words if you aren't spending time soaking in God's word, praying and practicing your Christianity everyday (even 2 hours through the week would double your exposure to His way), then you not only won't get the full benefit of your time in church but you won't make progress!

Lesson 3-Learn from the senior students.  In our class we have 2 black belts, 2 green belts and a senior yellow belt.  They are all senior to me.  It does not matter that the senior yellow belt is in the 4th grade; she knows how to do 3-step kick sparring perfectly and I better pay attention.  I understand that somewhere out there is a grand master held up as an example, and there is definitely an official book.  I've got the book and I'm studying.  But those senior students-they care about me; they are trying to help me progress and cheering me on; they are patiently teaching me.  And I need them.  In my Christian walk too, I need to listen to those disciples who are senior to me.  It doesn't mean they are necessarily older in years but in our congregation there are sisters and brothers who love me, want what's best for me, and have been walking with the Lord longer than I have.  I need to listen to them!

Lesson 4-It's not all in your head!  Muscle memory.  Practice.  These are the keys to Tae Kwon Do.  Have I learned new stuff?  Of course.  I can now say thank you in Korean, I know to walk behind the line, and I know the difference in a front snap kick and a side piercing kick.  But what my head knows is minor compared to the things my body knows.  Our teacher demonstrated how to block.  He explained how to hold our hand, where to place our thumb, what speed we needed and how to cross our arms.  Then we did it and he paitently corrected us.  Great.  But do you suppose having been shown that, knowing that in our heads, helped a bit the first time we were sparring and the punch came hurtling at us?  No.  But practice did.  Over and over we did what the teacher told us until it was automatic.  Until it was ingrained.  Until it was instantaneous.    

To be fair the metaphor here may be a little less obvious, but it is powerful. When Jesus says "Love your neighbor as yourself," He knows we won't get it immediately.  But that's ok.  First He demonstrates what it looks like.  The simple version and the most advanced.  Then He sets us to practice.  We love again and again.  We make mistakes; we try again until love is our first response.  Satan throws some punch in our face and we can move to block with love in a breath.  

I know that the New Year is a time when people consider making changes.  If like me, you are back in the gym and back on a healthy eating plan, congratulations.  If your spiritual life has gone by the wayside, I urge you to take the opportunity that 2017 offers and get back on track!



  1. What a jolting metaphor for the Christian life! Thanks for doing the brave thing and then applying it to our walk!

  2. Lots of good metaphors from your time in Tae Kwan Do. Good for you in attempting this! It's not anything I've ever tried before.