When I was a teenager, my sister, brother and I studied Tae Kwon Do with the late, great Chung Kim. It was one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve ever done because the studio was very “old school.” Classes were not designed to entice kids to join and have a “good time.” It was all about self-discipline and focus. We had to do knuckle pushups if we made a mistake. We free sparred grown men. We practiced, breathed, and lived according to the tenets of CIPSI:
Indomitable (unconquerable) Spirit
I remember the physical pain of knuckle push-ups, sparring, and sit-ups. I remember silently crying because I failed a belt test or failed at something else. It was more painful than not. It was more frustrating and frightening than not. But in the end, my siblings and I earned our 1st degree black belts.
There was a hearing impaired couple – man and wife – who were practicing in the studio. I watched them, mesmerized. It was already so hard! How did they do it? People are amazing. If person set goals and believe 100% in themselves, they will accomplish their goal. I saw this first hand in the dojang and I see it every day in my students.
Every important lesson I’ve learned in life bloomed in that stinky studio. Focus on what you’re doing. Control your mind and your body. Visualize your goals. Work hard. Never quit.
Master Kim, thank you for leaving such a valuable legacy.
When I was a young teen, my father gathered my sister, brother and me and told us we were going to start taking Tae Kwon Do lessons. He didn’t ask what we thought about it or if we wanted to do it, he told us we were doing it. My father was an extremely strict father. Tiger Moms these days are mere kittens compared to my father back then. So we didn’t even groan or try to get out of it.
We began. The entire time, I kept wishing I was taking dance instead. But no, martial arts it was.
My sister and I were young teenage girls and we had to spar grown men and believe me, they didn’t “take it easy” on us. JoAnne and I learned to use our elbows to defend ourselves against their powerful kicks. It worked! Martial arts was big back then because of a guy named Bruce Lee.
Our tenets were: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit (CIPSI).
We lived those tenets. All three of us earned 1st degree black belts.
There were no Asians in magazines back then. Or TV. Even “Kung Fu” starred a white man named David Carradine. It turns out Warner Bros. stole Bruce Lee’s concept and believed a full blooded Asian on TV wouldn’t work so they hired Mr. Carradine.
What did Bruce Lee do? He went to China and made “The Big Boss” which made him an international star.
This is what you must do when you face rejection. When you face sexism. Racism. Any kind of bigotry. Go out and be Bruce Lee. That is, embody his spirit.
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for all the piano and cello lessons. Music has been a lifelong passion of mine and speaks to me in all facets of my life. I’ve developed a deep appreciation for it and (hope) I’ve passed that on to my daughters. You sacrificed money and time for us and now I’m doing the same.
Thank you for the Tae Kwon Do lessons. It was hard and it must have been difficult for you to watch Jojo, John and me kicking and punching and getting beat up by grown ups in class. When we broke boards, we felt a new found satisfaction in our focus and power.
Thank you for not allowing us to quit, even when we cried.
Thank you for encouraging and allowing us to work in the cornfields of DeKalb, IL. We got cut by the sharp leaves of the stalks. We sweat and walked 12-14 hours a day during “peak.” But we learned the value of hard work and the true value of money.
Thank you for allowing us to ride our bikes all over town and for speaking in Korean in the house and pushing Korean food on us, when we just wanted McDonald’s. We came to appreciate different spices and vegetables and it’s a lot healthier, too.
Thank you for not going easy on us.We learned to handle disappointments, heartache, and pain. I was able to handle difficult bosses, financial stress and cancer because you allowed us to become strong and tough. Thank you.