As I test for fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and reflect on where I am in life, as well as where I

intend to go, I keep coming back to a topic which I already addressed when I tested for first degree black

belt in Kenpo: perseverance, resilience, having an indomitable spirit. As that was seven years ago (yes,

really), and much has transpired in the interim. I am not the same person I was. That kid had only begun

to realize that much pain awaited him. Therefore, he could not realize what role the martial arts would

play in his survival of his time in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

There is a Victorian poem written by William Ernest Henley, “lnvictus,” that goes:

Out of the night that covers me

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how straight the gate,

How charged with punishment the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

I find it reminds me of a crucial fact, one that my nearly twenty years of martial arts experience has

helped me to realize time and again: even when my journey has seen me walk through darkness I

cannot fathom, and so much feels beyond my control, I can control me. And sometimes that is enough.

To be sure, I certainly have cried my fair share. The despair one feels watching someone they love die

slowly, tortuously, from a disease with only one prognosis is beyond description. I recall one Easter

Sunday, I came so close to telling my mom I just could not do it anymore; I nearly refused to return to

finish the second semester of my junior year. But the words caught in my throat. In the last second, I

found I had more to give. Not much, but enough to haul my nearly broken self across the line. If it were

not for the martial arts, I doubt I would have found that little bit more. Fortunately, I have not hit such a

point since then, though there certainly have been other points of hopelessness, of emptiness, of

debilitating grief. Each time, I call upon my training. Not the physical training, but the mental. Years and

years of being asked if I wanted “one more,” of being reminded that though I may not always have total

control over my circumstances, I will always have control over something, have proven instrumental to

my ability to not only survive, but to thrive.

When Dad died, I found myself confronted with a different kind of darkness. The light that I had been

accompanying, and had been accompanying me, through the dark was no longer there, and I


profoundly exhausted. Two years, seven months, and fifteen days later, I don’t think I have quite

recovered. The martial arts have helped me through that time, as well. Were it not for the mental

training, I would not have been able to complete my master’s degree only a few months later, and I

would not have gotten to the point where I am now: Taking my story, my training, my education, and

presenting myself to medical schools for admission. Thanks to the martial arts, I will be a physician one

day, and I will accompany my patients as I accompanied Dad. Thanks to the martial arts, I know my way

in the dark. And though I cannot traverse it for them, I can be with my patients for as long as I can, to

the best of my ability.

I suppose this essay was a little different from many others (certainly from most of the ones I’ve

written). It was more of a (shortened) story. One of how the martial arts have helped me see myself

through more difficult times than I ever imagined enduring at such a young age. I am grateful to you

who helped make me the martial artist I am today. From the bottom of my heart: thank you.


Vision Martial Arts has been selected the top martial arts school in the area for More than 10 years!

Founded in 1995 by Diane Reeve Kirby, M.Ed. an 8th degree Black Belt and Chief Instructor, Vision Martial Arts provides martial arts lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up.  Our program is designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need – specialized for their age group – for school excellence and later success in life.

Vision Martial Arts Adult Karate training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay)in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

We can be contacted 24 hours or the day, 7 days a week at or call directly at 972-758-8622.  You can also visit our website at

About Diane Reeve Kirby:  Grandmaster Reeve is an eighth-degree black belt and chief instructor with Black Belts in 4 different styles.  She has a Master’s in education from North Texas State University (along with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Baylor). She has been teaching martial arts for over 30 years and has owned Vision Martial Arts since 1995. Grandmaster Reeve is a motivational speaker and educator and teaches seminars in bullying, self-defense, and empowerment.  Ms. Reeve is the recipient of multiple awards, including Masters Hall of Fame in 2014 and the 2020 BBC Inspirations Award.

Vision Martial Arts  is in Plano, Texas at 3019 W. 15th Street, Plano, TX  75075. You may contact Grandmaster Reeve or Office Manager, Ms. Kalgren there directly at (972)758-8622.  Vision Martial Arts serves Plano, Allen, Frisco, Richardson, and North Dallas plus surrounding North Texas communities.

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