by: Petra Roesner This blog is about my own experiences as a black belt Taekwondo student, which are grounded in practice and research and other sources about Taekwondo. I hope this blog is a good read for Taekwondo students (past, present and future), because I believe that students under the guidance of good instructors will not only learn the art, but will also learn to live the virtues that this art stands for and who will be able to bundle up their knowledge that allows them to “take it into your life.” The title of this essay is “overcoming, yourself that is,” which is something that I think most students of Taekwondo do every time they step into their dojangs barefoot. Learning Taekwondo and actually reaching what should be the goal, becoming a black belt student, is, for most who practice the art, a journey that is not necessarily defined by the ease of it all, but rather, defined by the way we overcome obstacles during the journey, and whether or not, we give up before we reach our goals. Learning the art goes beyond learning to kick and punch. Learning Taekwondo includes showing an indomitable spirit and perseverance. This is a life skill that teaches students of the art to learn to have a can-do attitude, to not give up when difficulty arises, where learning from mistakes becomes second nature and also where obstacles are not necessarily viewed as reasons to give up, but to overcome. I started to practice Taekwondo at the age of 40 with the goal to lose weight and also to enjoy participating in a sport as a family activity. While I knew that I would lose weight and gain overall strength, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, and most of all, I had no idea what hurdles would present themselves during this roller-coaster ride of a continuous journey. One obstacle I continue to wrestle with is my aversion to sparring, I prefer kicking drills and patterns. I have gotten more confident with that and overcome my fear of it more and more by simply doing it. And I have learned to deal with the inevitable invasions of my space during sparring, because that one day might proof itself very useful should I ever have to defend myself in real life. Overcoming injuries. I think at my age, getting injured is less an issue than the fact that injuries appear to heal much slower. I have gotten quite a few Taekwondo related injuries, a partially torn knee ligament, sprained ankles, and of course, loads of bruises. When I hurt my knee, I did physical therapy and I was actually ready to throw in the towel when the healing process took so long. However, I decided to get back on the mat. As I had a hard time kicking with my still healing right leg, which also used to be my strong leg, I shifted my focus on kicking with my left leg, which appeared to have served two purposes: it made my right leg stronger in the healing process and my left leg better at kicking. Overcame that one. Overcoming being defeated by a medical diagnoses. First, I got diagnosed with some sort of lupus a few years back and when I had flares, I would rest, however, it did not make me feel better, the lack of exercise actually seemed to prolong those flares. Although I was in pain and felt I was not doing that good on the mat during that time, I overcame the pain and learned that the exercise was good therapy both physically and mentally, and it certainly improved my outlook and attitude dealing with and managing a chronic issue. Then I got a cancer diagnosis, and had to deal with things that I have heard about but was not familiar with: everything that goes along with cancer treatment, such as scans, endless blood draws, radiation and chemo therapy, driving to the cancer center every work day for seven weeks and dealing with the uncertainty of it all. I did not practice in my dojang during the treatment, but during the first half, I would still practice my patterns at home, and then I just slept what I felt was all the time. My energy level was down, after all, they zapped with who knows what and put poison into my body to kill those pesky little cancer cells. I was fatigued for months after treatment, and still feel I am not back to my old self, and I am beginning to accept the thought that I might just have to adjust to some new normal. But despite this lingering fatigue, I wanted to go back to Taekwondo as soon as I was cleared, and I did. I am starting to move a bit faster again but I get worn out easily, but I am determined to continue to practice the art and kick and punch those medical issues out of my life as best as I can. These are just a few obstacles that I have encountered. I truly believe that Taekwondo practice has even more given me a mindset of not giving up in the face of hard times. I choose to continue to learn and progress as a student and as a mentor and teacher to junior students. I am not saying that overcoming my obstacles was easy, it was painful and at times required all the will-power I could muster to train instead of just giving in to the pain and tiredness and giving up. It is all about the mindset of overcoming oneself and one’s difficulties, whatever they may be for any given student of the art and life. If you like to read more about what Taekwondo can do, please check out the link to my publications, "Beyond the dojang: A phenomenological perspective on transferring the virtues of Taekwondo into daily life," and "Taekwondo, more than a martial art, a journey for life."