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Kuk Sool: What it’s like to be a Martial Arts Mum at forty something

So much fun training together! Together at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California after an evening class

So much fun training together! The kids and me at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California after an evening class

Mum could you hold the target please?” It’s the summer break and the first thing on my nine year old son’s mind is kicking practice when he wakes up.

Testing Day is about two weeks away and while my children are taking things in their stride I am rather anxious. I need to break a board at this Testing and I need to do it with a spin kick. Unlike jump front kick which gives me a real thrill I have struggled with getting the balance, power and accuracy required with spin kicking.

My training buddies are also working hard on their kicks but as Vineela managed to break a board earlier in the week she is feeling more confident than I am. Ramya popped in yesterday so that we could do some practicing together and her kick is pretty great and consistent so she doesn’t have anything to worry about either.

About the only thing setting my mind at ease is that I don’t only get one chance to break my board.

A stack of boards at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California dojang all ready for Testing Day

A stack of boards at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California dojang all ready for Testing Day

Despite my anxiety though I love facing these challenges. There is always something to push me. Something else out of my comfort zone that needs to be faced and conquered.

I have bruises on my arms from last week’s sparring, I have aching stomach muscles from body conditioning exercises in my last class too. I am trying to increase my flexibility to also assist my kicking and doing the various stretches is challenging to say the least! With hindsight I should have trained my body better about thirty years ago so that it wouldn’t have been so hard now.

I’ve never been an athletic type. Making my body work hard and building up a sweat was something my sporty husband did – not me! My mindset has shifted so much now that I have started Kuk Sool Won. Thanks to Instagram I can easily see that I have been practicing this traditional Korean martial arts system for 23 weeks now. What a journey it is!

There are also so many techniques to learn. Pressure points and joint locks are clearly very effective when executed well but I am having a great deal of difficulty memorizing each technique and I haven’t even learned that many yet! It feels like I forget them the moment they are taught to me. “You are very creative with your techniques” our instructor, Master Saidi chuckles. On numerous occasions he has to remind me to use my “other left”. Thankfully he is very patient and my training buddies, including my husband and kids, are great at helping me too.

Kuk Sool Won is not something I envisioned doing in my forties. I’ve always liked martial arts and started Tai Chi several years ago but when my Sifu immigrated I stopped. It has been a dream of mine to complete a sword form.

When we are warming up in class my son and my seven year old daughter try to encourage me to get my head to the ground during stretches. I can only smile and say I’m doing my best. It hurts but it also gets better with each passing week. Pain is certainly where the growth happens.

My son in action during Kuk Sool Won form training

My son in action during Kuk Sool Won form training

I watch my kids confidently lead warm-up and inwardly cringe at the thought of having to do it myself soon. Speaking in front of people I’m quite accustomed too but doing physical exercises is a completely different kettle of fish.

There are so many lessons to be learned both through learning the martial art and in the situations and discussions it leads to with my family.

You’re treating Testing the same way you treated your University exams!” my husband said to me last week. I had discovered so many mistakes in my     forms and I was practicing hard to fix them. “I don’t like to see you struggle” he added.

That’s really sweet” I responded “but struggling and then practicing is the only way I’m going to get better!”.

Starting something new is a challenge at any age but more so when you’re older and have so many demands on your time. My forty something year old neighbor recently went back to study and successfully changed career paths and is thrilled with her accomplishment despite how tough it was to achieve.

For this martial arts Mum, practice won’t make perfect but just like fear leads to anger then anger leads to hate which leads to the Dark Side, perseverance leads to improvement and improvement leads to encouragement which in turn fuels my aspirations for a healthier body and mind.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

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Martial Arts 101: We only regret the paths left unexplored

Path Poppies unexplored

It was a chilly evening but I didn’t need anything to keep warm. Nervous energy consumed me as I drove through the evening traffic.

The dojang (training hall) loomed large before me. The previous class was still in session. I tried not to focus on what the students were doing as I knew it would only escalate my anxiety.

My lizard brain wanted to retreat. What was I thinking? A 40-something year old with a very unsuccessful track record in anything sports related, starting a martial arts class where the average student was likely to be at least 30 years younger!

A sense of trepidation gripped me but I knew I was going to have to do this one scared! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Our instructor, Master Seyd M. A. Saidi, has practiced martial arts for over 35 years and has developed numerous teaching methods and techniques designed to aid students of all ages become accomplished martial artists.

“What size uniform do you think? 3 or 4?” asked Master Saidi. “Is there a size short and round?” I responded. I was handed the size 4 and went off to change.

There was no turning back now.

Standing in the changing area donning my dobok (uniform) felt strangely exciting. I saw my reflection in the large wall mirrors – you’re all kinds of crazy I thought!

The rest of the hour past in a blur of stretches, kicks, breathing exercises, punches and sword play. I felt rather self-conscious – the only white belt in a sea of browns and blacks! I couldn’t keep up with all of it and lost my balance a few times.Other than that though – it was exhilarating and I felt like I was connecting with my inner Cynthia Rothrock.

Respect and etiquette was palpable. Controlled discipline permeated each exchange which thankfully meant I was not taken down by the more advanced students. A fellow student even handed me a training sword so I didn’t have to fetch one myself. It was a kind gesture.

After the class the trainers were very encouraging. It was kind of them not to mock my lack of flexibility or dexterity.

Although I still felt the weight of my inexperience, I knew that I was embarking on another journey of self discovery. Guess I would keep being terrified but I would also keep trying.

We only regret the paths left unexplored.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.

 

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