By Audrey Yap (AKA Master Audrey)
This is me not long after I started taekwondo.
That’s right. In the centre, with the belt that’s coming undone. I think my school must have done a demo at the Expo 86 grounds in Vancouver, and those are my instructors on the sides with the 80’s haircuts. Now, some 30 years later, I get the privilege of being the one with the dated haircut who gets to teach the disheveled children. When I think back now, though, there’s a few pieces of advice I’d like to send back in time to my past self.
1. You’re going to get frustrated. A lot. It turns out that taekwondo is hard! And you’ll have a lot to learn, and learning is hard too, especially when you still have a little brain that’s still growing. So you’ll probably cry sometimes. And that’s ok, because it’s ok to be upset, but I promise you’ll get through it, even though you’re 7 and still can’t really cope with the fact that the book you read about dragons was fiction.
2. You do have to yell when you kick. That’s just part of the deal. Bonus fact though: when you’re in the extra awkward pre-teen phase, one more bad idea you’ll come up with for fitting in is to have the loudest kihap in the class. This also won’t be the worst idea you ever have about how to fit in. But you could just get used to the yelling now, and spare us all the cringing when you’re 11.
3. Your instructors are hard on you because they want you to do better, and they think you can do better. They didn’t just read some manual on how to be mean to children. Well, maybe they did and that’s where burpees came from, but that’s not why they make *you* work so hard in class. Trust me, when you’re yelling at your teenage athletes to put the work in, you’ll understand.
4. Sparring is hard, but worth it. I know it might seem like a really terrible idea to go bounce around in a ring with someone who wants to kick you, but this is a big chance for you. Honest. Learn to spar when you’re a kid and a teenager, and you’re going to go through your adult life with just that little bit of extra confidence that comes from knowing how to kick someone hard, and knowing that you can take it when someone else kicks you hard. Even if you never actually have to kick someone in real life (hey, I’ve got to leave you some surprises!), I promise that extra bit of confidence will go a long way.
5. Stick with it. Even when you get older and taekwondo doesn’t seem cool any more. Let’s be honest – you’re not going to be cool, ever, and if you really need proof, I have some yearbook photos to show you. But what you will have (that’s better than being cool in junior high) is something that’s going to be part of you for the rest of your life. You’re going to meet some people who feel like family, and you’re going to know what it’s like to have best friends whose main bonding activity is kicking each other really really hard. And look, little buddy. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a great idea now, when you’re seven, but I swear that when you’re older, you’ll know it was a gift.
Your still uncool future self.