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  • Writer's pictureMaster Ash

The Way

We all have a story line to describe our lives. It is an internal narrative that gives us a way to understand our world. It is okay to allow the mind to define ourselves, however, it can also limit us.

With each year that passes in school we advance towards a career that determines a large part of our life. In the beginning, all possibilities are available to us. We can be an astronaut, a firefighter, a doctor, a lawyer, a pro athlete, or even a chef. As kids we play games and dress up like those we want to be.

As we grow older, we realize we do not want to do some things or we are limited in what we could do. For example, in college I considered joining the FBI as a special agent. I found out, unfortunately, that they required 20/20 uncorrected vision. I wore contacts, so that option was out for me.

Another time, my physics mentor asked if I wanted to do postgraduate research on his team. I told him it was a great career, but I was planning on going to medical school.

All through medical school and training the list of possible fields got more narrow. And then something changed.

2022 surgery with the residents

After a decade in practice, I found myself doing the same ten or so procedures. One day I was at a conference on breast reconstruction and learned of a new innovation in reconstruction. After researching it, I incorporated the technique into my practice. Little by little, the scope of my practice grew and I found myself doing new things, some that did not even exist during my training days. So the practice opened a new avenue of work.

Similarly, we can expand our horizons in taekwondo. In the beginning, we learn to do kicks, punches, kiyap.

We may think that this is all we can do and we see something that amazes us.

We see this in our progress in school, work, and in our own life.

We move up to a new grade. Earn college and post graduate degrees, meet someone we want to spend the rest of our life with, get a promotion at work and even raising a family.

We build on our experiences both good and some not so good. Those past histories cannot be changed but it can inform us in different ways.

The future is uncertain and can be scary, afraid of the changes that inevitably come. How we manage our present moment, the direction we move, the intention we use to approach the moment is all we get to control. If we maximize our present moment, we give ourselves the best chance of the future we want.

So what are we to do? Freeze in this moment, frozen in indecision unable to move? In sparring we know exactly what happens if we don't move.

When our velocity of movement is zero, we are guaranteed to be hit repeatedly, put to the ground, and disassembled like a tree in a hurricane.

So what is the option?

We are only given the present moment. We have a choice, fueled by how we approach each situation in life just as in sparring. We have explored this concept many times in sparring and line exercise. When training gets hard, the mind stops thinking. There is only breathing and moving.

Clarity, like the ever present blue sky, comes to us as we realize the focus of movement. We direct ourselves to move and the body somehow is able to continue! We achieve something new, fresh like the student breaking his first board.

The moment is the only space we can influence the future. If we use that moment, that is the best way to get the future we want.

Thus we do not need to worry about the future. It will take care of itself so long as we use this time in the best way we can.

This is what Taekwondo teaches us in training. The Way of the Smashing Foot and the Crushing hand is the literal translation of "Taekwondo". Our training is a physical manifestation of how we walk in the Way. Allowing it to become a part of our daily life allows us to be "black belt" in everything we do.

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