Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tae Kwon Do / About a Boy / Black Belt

I received my Tae Kwon Do black belt yesterday. It was the best thing I could do for myself. A twenty five year journey with stops and starts. Below is the 500 word essay I was required to submit for my testing criteria. I share it now...

My Tae Kwon Do Journey

By
TANYA TAIMANGLO
February 2015
USTA

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”—Lao Tzu

My journey in Tae Kwon Do began 25 years ago when at the age of 16, I joined my first dojang in Guam. I had been familiar with this school for four years prior, but never had the courage to join the class. I sat in the back while my two younger brothers moved up in the ranks. During those four years of observation, many of the tenets of Tae Kwon Do seeped into my being. My father would nudge me to join from time to time, but not having the courage to do so, I declined, even when my father added, “You need to honor your Korean culture and mom by joining.”

My first Master, Hyung Ho Lee was young, skillful, and proud. Classes were on the second level of an old two story building. The hard wood floors were not pristine, but the wide windows brought in the fresh ocean air. For five years, I continued to move up slowly in belt rank, ending my time with Master Lee at a high blue belt. Belt testing happened only every six months, and with graduating from high school and beginning college, I advanced slowly, but surely.
I remember the day that would be my last with Master Lee. I was competing in an island wide Tae Kwon Do tournament. I was 21 at the time. Prior to that, I had some success with poomse and sparring competitions, gaining further confidence and trophies with each year. But, this day was different. I was unfocused, because I was transitioning socially. I had my first date that evening (in my entire life), which is late by today’s standards. I lost the tournament, already abandoning Tae Kwon Do for a boy. For six years, while I established my teaching career and hoped for marriage with the boy I had my first date with, I let my physical self deteriorate. At the age of 27, I found myself suddenly single, unhappy, and unhealthy.

My knee jerk response was to join Tae Kwon Do again. Master Lee no longer had a gym, and I found Master Chuuth Sekria. He welcomed me at my blue belt level, but I saw his disappointment when he realized that I lost much of my training. That first week in his class was frightening, with a weaker me struggling to not faint. I made it though and even got a few teacher friends to join with me. For the next three years, I flourished. Advancement came quicker and I realized that Master Sekria was both a teacher and a business man. At the age of 28, I reconnected with a childhood friend, who is now my husband. My husband was in the Navy, and I knew that after our wedding I would relocate to California. Master Sekria knew my time on Guam was limited. With an upcoming belt test, he told me, “I’m going to give you your junior black belt, then you’re getting married and leaving our gym.” It was true, once again, I was leaving Tae Kwon Do “for a boy.”
My new focus was marriage and starting a family. Fast forward ten years and another military move to Washington State. My son joined USTA after two years of proving his worthiness. His first class brought back many memories of sitting in the back with my father. I was filled with pride and at home with the familiar sights and sounds of the dojang.

When Master Ekle announced that parents would be invited to practice for free, my immediate reaction was YES. I’ve been with my new dojang and new Master now since October 2014. It has been the best reinvention of myself, even if my Korean mother thinks I’m “too old.” I’m proving that at age 40, it’s never too late to strive for a goal. My goal is my black belt.

My father passed away in 2007, but I’m certain that he would be proud to know that a black belt is in my grasp. I’m thankful for the opportunity to put my body and mind to the test. This time, I joined a dojang and embraced Tae Kwon Do again “for a boy”, my son.