An Unexpected Journey

By Matthew Drumm

One of the many things I have learned through my martial arts journey is that I will be constantly challenged and writing this paper has followed suit. The part I struggled most with was what to write about. The most popular theme appears to be people’s journey through one martial art or another. Whether it is spending time away and coming back, coming from another back ground, joining with their kids for a family activity, starting young as an after school activity or any of the other common themes. I realized that I didn’t fit any of those molds and that maybe my journey was a little different.

Right around three and half years ago I went to a friend’s second degree black belt testing and was impressed with everything I saw. Shortly after that he mentioned that he wanted to start up school and if I knew anyone who would be interested to send them his way. I immediately said I was in and started right away. There were about 6 of us there for the first class all fresh out of the box white belts. As time went by the majority of those first students went away and I began to realize what a comment and dedication it takes to keep pursing higher ranks and abilities. This changed my perspective and approach to class, students and instructors. I was no longer trying to compete or prove that I was better but learn from everyone I interacted with no matter the color of their belt.

As time and forms progressed it became even more apparent on how important everything I learned at lower ranks was. Forms became more complicated and challenging which kept me engaged and excited to learn whatever was next. Three steps became five steps, then came one steps, after that even more one steps. At times it seemed very repetitive but after a while I realized this helping me with sparring and self-defense. Instead of thinking of what to do in sparring I was reacting with a block and then a counter. As for self-defense I would fall into the same trap most people would and draw a blank on what to do when all what was needed at times was to break the hold with an up block or something similar and throw a counter strike. With this foundation now in place learning the new techniques required to advance did not seem so overwhelming.

One of the hardest obstacles to overcome was injuries. Not from the pain or anything like that, what made it difficult was taking the necessary time off to fully heal. I was afraid of falling behind and if I took too much time off I would lose the dedication to keep coming to class on a regular basis. The way I worked through any injury was to miss the minimal time possible and then work on things at slower pace. Even though I couldn’t go full speed I could still watch and learn the techniques. This approach also helped me in areas I felt I was weak in or could improve upon. I would watch other students or instructors in what they were doing and ask them to break down particular areas so I could try to match what they were doing.
Working in this manner helped me become more technically sound and reduced my frustration trying to learn the next step.

More recently a Kali class was added as an additional martial art offered by the school I was taking classes at. After one class I was hooked. Kali offered a different approach to martial arts than I had become accustomed to. Where as in taekwondo your first hit is your last hit, one of kali philosophies it’s always your turn. This translates into you hit first, second, third…until your opponent is down. Where as in Kali your movements need to be relaxed and fluid, taekwondo was about crispness and power. It seemed at first that the two styles were contradictory to each other when it in all actuality the one complemented the other. Approaching both styles in this manner helped me become stronger in the other and helped improve any weaknesses I had. My speed on techniques in taekwondo improved because I was more relaxed. My strikes in kali had more power from incorporating stances from taekwondo. This also changed my approach to martial arts as whole. I realized that there is no one perfect martial art all have their strengths, their weaknesses and the more I learn the better I can become as a whole.

Looking back on the past few years I’ve realized how much I learned and grown not only in martial arts but as a person. Starting out I thought it was all about kicking butt and taking names but after some tempering and patience from fellow students and instructors it dawned on me that it’s much more than that. I learned that it’s about respect, disciple, family, honor, focus, patience, and yes a little butt kicking sprinkled in. In closing I would like to thank everyone I have ever interacted with in this community whether you realize it or not even the smallest interaction I have had with you has helped me progress to where I am today… thank you.