Martial Arts

Detroit by Erin Wade

Over the Fourth of July weekend we were in Detroit for the 2017 National Tae Kwon Do Championships. Aside from the martial arts extravaganza, one of the things I've always enjoyed about these types of events is that it can provide an opportunity to see places you otherwise might not.

But seriously - Detroit?

We all know that Detroit is The Motor City, and the home of Motown. But honestly, most of my mental picture of Detroit is formed from the movie The Crow and the various works of Eminem.

Still, that's where the tournament was, so that's where we were going. I pictured spending a lot of time in the hotel room in-between formal events (the hotel was a different story - is there a Crowne Plaza in the nation that has been re-decorated later than 1987...?).

Turns out that Detroit - or at least the broad downtown section that contains the Cobo Center - is under revitalization. And it shows. While there are a handful of buildings that are in very poor condition, those that we encountered are under construction. And the city has built a downtown park - called Campus Martius Park - which puts a lovely central focus point on the region.

Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument sits at one entry point to the park. The park itself contains many of the things that one would expect - trees, tables, fountains, a bandshell, people reading, talking, playing chess. It also contains a huge sandbox (called "the beach") and an outdoor bar. This, as one might suspect, makes it a lovely space for people of all ages to congregate, and the park was well attended. This was lovely enough that we chose to spend time there on a couple of different days that we had open.

This area is also very bike-friendly, and the city has recently incorporated a bike-sharing system similar to that found in other cities. There are multiple restaurants within a short walk of the park, including a Hard Rock Café, a marvelous breakfast place called The Dime Store, and a little further down, the Detroit Beer Company, a local brewpub.

Detroit Beer Company

We also took a ride on the Detroit People Mover, did a walk-thru at the General Motors building, and spent a short period of time walking through the small Greektown the city offers.

The experience wasn't flawless. The city does have a homelessness problem, and when walking to breakfast we encountered one man laying splayed on the sidewalk such that it was unclear whether he was sleeping, or waiting for someone to make a chalk outline around him. He was gone when we passed back that way, so it was likely the former.

The city probably benefitted somewhat from low expectations - I wouldn't recommend it as a vacation destination by itself - but all in all, the experience was much different than I expected, and far more pleasant.

Tae Kwon Do - Achievements and Rewards by Erin Wade

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.