Bradley

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

felt

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 info@vmacplano.com or call directly at 972-758-8622.  You can also visit our website at Vmacplano.com.

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.

Also, check us out on GrouponEventBrite,  and on ActivityHero.com

A message from a student

How Karate Ruined My Life

and why that’s a good thing.

A year ago Tom and I were searching for something more for AJ, who was 6 at the time.  He was (and still is) a sweet, nurturing kid who loves cooking, hugs, animals, and babies.  He’s pretty sure the greatest evil ever perpetrated by the universe is that he doesn’t have a younger sibling.  At the time he was also, and there’s no way to sugar coat this…a wuss.  Unwilling to exert himself, or meet a challenge, he was the kid who would give up at the slightest resistance.  At the beginning of a global pandemic that will shape an entire generation, I didn’t see a place for a kid who folds like a house of cards.   As parents we struggled with what to do.  I certainly didn’t want to crush the sweet and gentle spirit AJ was blessed with, but he was never going to succeed in life if he didn’t find a way to develop some perseverance and fortitude.

We started our search with a well known program that promises to build “strong” kids by building mental and physical toughness.  While AJ enjoyed his trial class, it was clear to us that it was more, well… “new age, feel good, everybody gets a trophy, mumbo jumbo” than we really wanted to commit ourselves to.  We wanted something older, with deeper roots and more meaning.  It was also staggeringly expensive for the limited time and value it offered.

Tom had done some Tang Soo Do as a kid.  On a related note, feel free to ask him how he was able to afford it, but be warned, it’s the kind of story that might need a Kleenex or two.  But I digress… We started researching local martial arts programs.  We’d hoped to find something that was kid friendly but still took itself seriously.  After all, we THOUGHT we knew the magnitude of the commitment we were making.  On a cloudless day in September 2020 we walked through the door at Vision Martial Arts, and that was the beginning of the end.  It was supposed to be AJ’s introductory lesson, but it took was a suggestion of a hint of a whisper of an idea to get Tom back into a gi.  Ever the skeptic, I sat in that blue chair and watched.  “Martial arts isn’t for me,” I told myself, “too far outside of my comfort zone.”  What followed was one of those infamous “go big or go home” moments.  We went home that night having signed both Tom and AJ up for a grand new adventure.  It took a bit of convincing, but in the end the fear of missing out overwhelmed me.  Despite what I thought was my better judgment, I picked up that white gi, changed in the bathroom, attended my first class, and ruined my life.

Life is everchanging, said some famous poet, sometime.  While you’re never fully prepared for it, you accept it as inevitable.   A year ago I was firmly entrenched in my comfort zone, both physically and mentally.  We had dinner at the dinner table most every night. I thought it was important.  It felt important.   I did an acceptable amount of laundry on a seemingly normal schedule. Even during the parts of the fall and spring when AJ played baseball, we were laid back and well organized…a well organized machine that only ever broke down when it rained on Sunday when Tom was “supposed” to mow the lawn.  It all seemed so easy.  In retrospect, it was stagnation, boredom.  It was as hollow, and as empty as my never filled laundry basket and my always run dishwasher.

Martial Arts RUINED that life I had.  Gone were the days where I had a hot, home cooked meal on the table every night.  It started out simple enough.  It was only two nights a week.  No problem.  I could work on my own flexibility and resilience.  Then it was three.  Then it was three and Saturday mornings.  Then we added a Tigers class for AJ.  That’s now 5 days for those of those keeping score.  Then we added a fourth night.  Now I wonder if I should just have my mail forwarded to the dojo.  I’m fairly confident that if there were a Sunday class, we’d be there too, but 6 days a week is probably enough.

We don’t really eat dinner anymore.  Except for Tuesdays, which AJ will tell you are for McDonald’s.  We can’t eat dinner…we have class.

Laundry? Lord grant me the strength to wash yet another load of gi’s.  It’s like five loads a week!  I guess we could buy more.  But they are expensive and the color keeps changing, and the kid keeps growing, and I keep swearing that I’m going to shrink.  So I wash….and I wash…and I wash…

I’d tell you that I can’t remember the last time my knees didn’t hurt, but I would be lying.  It was Wednesday, September 16, 2020.  That was the day I attended my first class.  Some days I’m the “good” kind of sore that rewards physical activity well done.  Other days it takes me a solid 5 minutes to get out of a chair.

I threaten now and then to take a couple of days off, just to see if some of the soreness would dissipate.  But, no matter how hard I try, when the magic hour comes around, and it’s time to hunt down belts and gis, I give in to the siren’s call.  Every.  Single. Time.

So, there you go.  House in shambles, dinner table a forgotten relic, overwhelming laundry, physical pain every single moment of every single day. It seems like martial arts pretty much ruined my life. But there’s more to the story than that.

There’s the fact that “the family that kicks together sticks together.”  We’re a family united in a common interest and activity, a goal oriented unit that elevates us all.  There is the fact that I have a bigger “family” now.  I have big sisters and little sisters, and pesky little brothers, and even a crazy uncle or two.  There’s the sense of love and community that wafts through the building.  There’s the fact that despite the nagging pain, I’m in better physical shape than I have been in years, with the drive, inspiration and tools to further improve that.  That feeling you get when you kick just a little bit higher, or your form is just a little bit cleaner. There’s the fact that I have a long term goal, and a dream to chase that feels somehow more concrete that all of my other vague ideas of success.

So yes, in a lot of ways martial arts ruined my life.  But I’m happier, and better off for it.

Amanda Stapleton

 

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 info@vmacplano.com or call directly at 972-758-8622.  You can also visit our website at Vmacplano.com.

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.

Also, check us out on GrouponEventBrite,  and on ActivityHero.com

Posted on September 1, 2021 by Vision Posted In: Martial Arts