By Isaac Hoffer
Tae Kwon Do and School:
You know, it is not always easy being just a simple kid in a school of jerks. Everybody has their moments, but clearly mine had to come early. Tae Kwon Do has been a huge thing for me that I would love nothing more than to keep doing. Never have I ever been quite so confident with myself before, knowing that I am literally a week away from getting a black belt in the art that I have been studying for over five years. It is not the belt itself that I am excited about, (although I am going to look pretty awesome in it) but it’s the fact that I will have finally proven that I can go such distances. When I was in Elementary school, people used to think that all these things were beyond me. (Yes, I was bullied quite a bit in school). But the reason why some students said the things they said was because I am simply different from the rest. Then again, we are all different but that is not the point. When I was five, my parents took me to the doctor to find out that I had autism. For those who don’t know, autism is a type of mental disorder that forms during the brain’s development and causes strong difficulties with speech, focusing, and most strongly; social interaction. Given all of these even though I was high-functioning, it made my Elementary and Middle school years difficult educational-wise, and social-wise. Kids used to pick on me to make me mad so that I would receive the blame in the end. I also needed to work with a private counselor on all of my school work to keep caught up. Like almost any other kid, I was really interested in Martial Arts and learning how to fight. But at the time, I was doing gymnastics so my Mom did not want to make two stops. Furthermore, given my really bad anger-issues, my family thought that it would be bad for me to learn a martial art out of fear that I might wind up hurting someone in my anger. So, I just had to wait. The bullying continued and nothing was being done about it. But as they say, if you want a job to be done, you need to do it yourself, and that is just what I did. When I turned ten, I finally completed my final gymnastics meet and left to do a different sport. I tried different things over the course of the next few months and found no interest. But then I considered something different that seemed to be calling for me to sign up: Green Mountain Tae Kwon Do. My Mom finally thought that I was ready and signed me up. On my very first day there, it felt so awkward being the only one standing in the back. I did not like it. But I would not let myself give up so easily. Weeks passed by and I started to learn new things one by one. By the time I got my yellow belt, I finally felt like I fit in just fine. No longer being the new guy at the back of the Dojang, I was finally making progress. But my social and educational life was still shaky. Especially in Middle School when puberty kicked in and I started having depression problems. But Tae Kwon Do still seemed to keep my spirit high. After all, I became a blue-belt around this time and was getting good. I continued to rise through the ranks in Tae Kwon Do slowly, but surely. I was even able to establish anger management through doing it. Even though school was hard and stressful, it motivated me to continue to do it just dreaming of myself with a black belt around my waist someday and proving those kids from elementary wrong. When I got my red-belt, I was really beginning to taste how close I am to receiving the rank I longed for. I am making friends, I started to work out, I was doing just fine in school, and I began feeling confident in myself in terms of Tae Kwon Do. I practically feel like a new man. Nowadays, school is going okay, my self-esteem has returned, and I feel great. I am still kind of quiet and have a little bit of trouble making eye contact with those who I talk to. But otherwise Tae Kwon Do has really done me well and I am more than just glad that I decided to take it.
How Tae Kwon Do has helped me:
Tae Kwon Do is really calming, relaxing, stress-relieving, and has allowed me to establish anger-management. Over the past few years, Tae Kwon Do has even come in handy every now and then when I have an encounter with a no-good trouble-maker. It has even helped me out in a few situations. The bullies finally seem to be backing off and I do not need to use any violence when angered. I am no longer afraid to stand up for myself and unless of self-defense, I have not yet needed to use legitimate violence and I try to avoid conflict at all times.
In Tae Kwon Do:
In Tae Kwon Do itself, I have made several good friends. When I first entered, I was really shy and quiet since I was one of the only new comers (And not to mention one of the only guys at the time). A few friends from school were in it as well, so I was not completely alone. But over the course of the years, I have really familiarized myself with the instructors, my fellow classmates, and even the Grand Master himself. I have learned a lot, and I can do a lot as well given my gymnastics back-ground. Honing my flexibility and agility into this art has given me a really quick, high-jumping, and well-balanced fighting style. I have also not walked this long road alone; I have made friends from Tae Kwon Do as well who have helped me and had my back. Some have motivated me, some have intrigued me, and I even have an equally ranked friend who has really motivated me to get better at sparring. It’s ironic because some of them have been doing Tae Kwon Do with me for years now. (I will not mention any names since I don’t have any permission to do so). Some have even already beaten me to the black belt. But it does not matter. I should only worry about myself right now given that I am really close from doing so myself.