So here I was in front of over 100 people, Taekwon-Do practitioners and civilians, mums and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, all here for a common purpose to support their loved ones, watch one of the greatest martial arts in New Zealand in action. I was formed up for the final and formal part of my Black Belt grading, Sunday afternoon, standing humbly in front of Masters, senior examiners, Black Belts and senior and junior Gup grades.
I took a moment to reflect on my journey to this point and how I got here. February 2014, I was a chubby mummy to three children, two preschoolers, and a six-year old who I wanted to join a Martial Art to develop his inner and outer confidence, physical and emotional strength and his ability to defend himself and be part of something bigger than him, where he could see his own potential and grow as a person. I joined him, he went along, initially reluctantly then more enthusiastically.
For weeks, I sat and watched and played on my phone, took photos, answered work emails, rested my eyes, silently supported him. I got a little chubbier and a little slower, I played on my phone a little more and found myself watching a little less. Then one day, after much internal reflection, I thought “I’m going to give it a go, do some exercise, get a little stronger and a little fitter; bond with my Son and be present with him in something he enjoys”. Let’s just say my post pregnancy body took a lot of coaxing to get up and out of the chair.
So I upgraded to a family membership and gave it a go. The first three days after my first training session – I could barely walk, I had used muscles not engaged for a very long time and after three children my muscles were buried deep underneath a layer of thick skin-coloured insulation.
So, to cut very long story short, I kept going, 2-4 times a week, pretty much every week for five years. Taewkon-Do turned into something I did for myself. It cleared my mind, it strengthened my body, I toned and felt more confidence in myself. I bonded with my children and it became something I did with all my three children. Of course there were tears and tantrums, injuries and grading, disappointments and huge achievements, celebrations and commiserations, life lessons and eventually medals. Little by little I edged closer to Black Belt – was it something I could ever achieve? I was never really sure.
What I did know is many people believed in me, many eyes were watching me, many young women including my daughter was passionate about me going for Black Belt and hoping for a positive result. There were many tears, self-doubt, lack of confidence and persistent injuries on this journey. Even the night before the Grading I was in floods of tears.
The week before my grading, Master Bhana invited me to do a couple of patterns before the club, and when I finished, I gazed around at a sea of earnest young faces, girls and boys of a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. Asian, Persian, Maori, Polynesia, Malaysian, Indian and Kiwi. I locked eyes with a little girl in a Hijab and I felt this overwhelming sense that she and everyone in that room wanted this as much as I did. Their littles eyes glistened with hope and they all looked so pleased I thought I have to do this for them as much as it is for me.
And so I did. I gave my everything at that Black Belt grading, I performed my patterns and my theory, to the best of my ability, I flew through the air for my breaks, I sparred, I defended, I ran my heart out. I planked, I did press ups, I gave it my all. I focused on my inner strength and my spirit. At the end of the weekend, I knew I had given it my best with what energy I had, I was shattered, Monday morning – I could hardly walk. It was two long weeks before we got the email that I had passed. I was so pleased as was my partner, Master Bhana and all the students at Eastern Taekwondo, I did it! I also want to acknowledge and thank Bella Bavin, an amazing young girl who was my partner at the Black Belt grading; I could not have got through the two days without her. We were possibly an odd couple – 15-year old girl with amazing flexibility and tenacity, and a 40 year old mum who is constantly tired, but when the Dobok is on, age disappears.
So, in summary, I would say to any other parent thinking of participating, give it a go, give it a try. Put down your phone, your iPad, disengage from work emails, social media and shopping lists. Be present in the moment, engage with your children, engage your body and your mind, be open to new opportunities and do something for you. For after five long years, many tears and tribulations, dramas and disasters, I sailed through the storm of self-doubt, found inner strength and found out a little more about the jigsaw of myself.
Stacey McLachlan, 1st Dan, Eastern Taekwon-Do