Yesterday I was offered an opportunity that few people get to experience: I was fortunate enough to be present while a young man, after years of hard work and focus, achieved his 4th Dan - Master Status - in Tae Kwon Do.
This well-earned achievement occurred not in isolation, but against the backdrop of others on their own paths of personal achievement. I watched, and participated, as a woman resolutely refused to allow her personal and physical struggles stop her from achieving her 2nd Dan. I saw one of the most determined boys I've had the pleasure to know and work with attain his 1st Dan. I watched as a deceptively tiny girl demonstrated such clear focus, recall, and grace under pressure, that she was awarded a double promotion. And all of this occurred while many others, including my own child and myself, continued on their own roads within the martial arts, taking their own steps towards their own goals.
This is perhaps one of the least recognized rewards to participating in the martial arts - the opportunity to see, to be part of people you know and have grown to care about pressing beyond their limits - or what they perceived those limits to be - to attain feats they may not have believed possible; to see children grow and mature, to learn to restrain their impulses, control their emotions, and overcome their fears, removing those roadblocks to success. It provides this opportunity again and again. This all in addition to the very real parental pride of watching my own child grow and succeed - and I have been given many opportunities to feel that pride as well.
From the outside martial arts may appear to be a way of learning to fight, to protect oneself, to learn to do some of the cool things that appear in TV shows and movies. For those with a casual interest and/or a passing interest in Kung Fu movies from the 1970's and '80's it may seem to offer access to a bit of mysticism, a way of learning to do things outside the norm. And, to be clear, it does offer those things.
But those things are hardly all it has to offer. In fact, they may not even be the most important things it has to offer.
So - Congratulations to Master Spencer, to Melanie, to Jason, to Leah, for all that you have achieved, as well as to everyone else who pushed through yesterday, working towards and achieving your goals. And thank you to Master Lee and Miss Gianna for making all of this possible. I'm honored to have been a part of it.