With Ideas Come Responsibility

When one of my newest pee-wee white-belts from our community outreach class at the Boys & Girls Club informed me that, after three months of practice, he was quitting Taekwon-do, I was disappointed but not terribly surprised. His older brother had already given up the ghost, and in my 30+ years of teaching I have seen many an 8-year-old come to the same decision. Nevertheless, this particular young man had just been outfitted in one of the doboks we had donated to the club so I had been hopeful that this younger brother might be more motivated than his sibling, so I asked him why he was quitting.
“I’ve got all the moves,” he replied.
As I looked this diminutive young philistine with the no more than normally challenged attention span in the eye, gazing down at him from my full 6’3”, a veritable iceberg of commentary regarding why he most certainly had not “got” all the moves began vociferously to crowd the surface of my conscious mind, only to emerge as two meek, if fatherly words. “I see,” was all I said.
Because I did see. What this white belt did have, even with his minor amount of instruction, was a rudimentary grasp of a set of fundamental techniques. What he did not have was much skill in their execution. Techniques after all are only ideas, and this young white-belt had progressed to the point where his idea of this limited set of techniques was cemented well enough that he could begin to practice them in a more productive way and begin to create the skills the idea of a technique only represents.

So I was disappointed, but not because I had failed with this student; you can never tell whose imagination the art will capture and whose it won’t. I was disappointed because this student had reached what from an instructor’s point of view is one of the most exciting developments in any taekwon-doist’s progress, and that is the point at which idea can begin to become reality, and this young man had turned away from it.

What my young student had sensed, even if he wouldn’t articulate it to me, was the hard training that was now to follow. And he had decided, perhaps quite sensibly—for him—that it wasn’t going to be worth it.

For me, it has always been worth it.

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