What Keeps You Coming Back?

This past Tuesday, a few of my fellow students and I were asked a question by our instructors.

"What is your favorite part about Tae Kwon Do?"

At first, I didn't have an answer. How could I choose one thing about my art that is my favorite when it's really a combination of many different aspects? But what was one thing that I specifically enjoyed? Finally, an answer popped into my mind.

"Teaching and learning how to be a teacher," I said.

"And that's your favorite?"

I considered that for a moment. There were a lot of things I loved about Tae Kwon Do, but...

"Right now it is."

I know I've been talking a lot about teaching lately, but I've been doing it a good bit. Now, teaching isn't all fun and games. It's also a lot of hard work, but I'm learning a lot from doing it. Sometimes the kids can be frustrating to deal with because of their short attention span, and I'm still fairly introverted, so getting tongue-tied and not knowing what to say isn't fun, but I really love getting to work with the green belts. They're at that intermediate stage where they're getting to do a lot of fun things. Sparring, a little self defense, more advanced kicks, and that kind of thing. The same night we ended class with the question I just discussed, I worked with two of the green belts on their sparring. Seeing them applying some of the things that I suggested they do in sparring was really cool -- and rewarding to me as their teacher.

But back to the original question.

Before the three green belts could answer the same question that I did, the question changed and became,
"What is one thing that keeps you coming back every week?"

Even though this question wasn't directed at me, I still tried to answer it in my own mind. Even as the other students explained their reason, I could not figure out what mine was. I went home that night, still trying to come up with something.
What is so enjoyable about class that it makes me keep coming back week after week? What species of bug is it that bit me and gave me this martial arts virus that makes me obsess as I do? For some, the martial arts are just another hobby that can be given up with little thought. But it isn't that way for me. It's in my blood and I don't see how it could ever be separated from my being.

But what is it about martial arts and Tae Kwon Do that makes me love it so? I ran through several ideas in my head, and I found that it's not the techniques or the sparring. Not the kicks and the punches. Not the self defense or even learning how to be a teacher. It's something that I've never consciously realized.

Tae Kwon Do is the only place where I feel that I truly fit in and feel like I belong there 100%. I feel the most comfortable there. There are no cliques. No pressure to live up to other people's standards of how you should act/dress (other than basic dojang etiquette) and risk being looked down upon. There is only Student and Teacher.

Other places I go and other things I do just don't feel the same. A lot of this is due to my quiet nature, and other factors. I may fit in, but it's just not the same 100% as at Tae Kwon Do.

And that is the factor at the top of the list of things that keeps me coming back.

What keeps you going back to class week after week?


SueC said...

I empathise with your feeling of not always 'fitting in' 100% of the time with activities you participate in. Shyness can be a double edged sword. On the one hand it turns us into natural anthropologists because we people watch all the time. When you find it hard to join in you just watch and listen and learn a lot about how other people interact with each other. On the other hand we find it difficult to emulate our more extrovert friends and so remain on the sidelines watching and wishing we knew how to join in better. Believe me - I've been there! The good news is you get better as you get older (providing you don't withdraw from social contact).

I understand entirely why you feel that you fit in 100% with your martial arts club. It is an ideal activity for people who are more comfortable with socialising whilst doing something physical. In a dojo everyone is an equal human being. However extrovert people are they are not allowed to talk over you, about you or ignore you. Everyone treats everyone else with respect and tolerance. No-one is allowed to be a diva and no-one is made to feel a failure. Our martial arts 'family' embraces each of us as equals. I also feel most comfortable in my karate club and this is one of the reasons I keep going back.

Anonymous said...

Hi, what a great post and Sue's comment too. At my club a couple of us have chatted regularly about why do we keep doing this and coming back - definitely the respect, improving self-confidence and the overall challenge - you have to work really hard to improve each session but it instantly pays off in terms of feeling physically and mentally better.

Our instructors have asked us the same thing before - I was so moved by one of our younger members - I think he is about seven, saying - he kept giving up on things he wanted to stop doing that. Wow at seven years old!

Unless you are as flexible as a young child, it is hard, lots of instructions to process and takes a lot to try and follow then improve. You often fail but you fail alongside so many others doing the same and the respect from both the instructors and others in the class, encourages you to keep trying - e.g when you've tried to do an impressive kick and often ended up on the floor in a mess, or tried to learn a pattern - series of movements and it just doesn't happen.

In very early days when I was still a white belt, we were practising non-contact sparring and I accidentally kicked one of the more senior members in the face (it was actually quite a good kick, albeit a fluke). He just smiled, said "that was beautiful" and we carried on sparring, he wasn't bothered at all. That was an early signal that I had 'landed' somewhere special and amazing - it still is !

Ariel said...
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Ariel said...

Sue -- you said it more eloquently and with more insight than I could! I wholeheartedly agree, especially on the martial arts 'family'. Thanks for commenting!

Nicola -- thanks for commenting! I have yet to come across another activity that challenges me in the multitude of ways that martial arts do. I've had many of those times like what you described when you were a white belt -- it keeps me coming back for more!