Sunday, February 27, 2011

Board Lessons

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Mark Twain

Yesterday I was witness to, and a participant in, one of life’s lessons illustrated through the breaking of boards.

I’ve been in my taekwondo class for a few months with my 8YO. We’ve learned kicks and punches and stances and forms of all kinds, but for the most part, with the exception of sparring someone with mainly our own skill level, our attacks fall on thin air.

For example: my front kick. Not really one of my best kicks, as I feel like my hamstrings are pretty tight and don’t allow me to get my foot up there as quickly as I’d like to. Last time I broke a board with a sidekick, and at least with that one I was fairly certain I could fully extend my leg. Front kick, not so much.

Well, as part of the test for our yellow belt, we were expected to break a board with a front kick. Breaking boards isn’t something we practice in class very often, and when we do practice it is on plastic simulation boards that I’ve found are nothing like the real thing. So… questionable ability… no way to practice… leads to anxiety… which doesn’t help.

Anyway, time came for us to break boards and the instructor – whom I’d also never met – went in reverse order. There were numerous white belts testing for their yellow stripes that went before me, and quite a lot of them didn’t break their boards on the first try. More anxiety. You’re the only one up there, trying your best while everyone else looks on, and you pretty much feel like a failure every time that board refuses to crack.

The board breaking portion of the test took a long time. Probably over an hour. As I sat there and watched kid after kid, and even some adults, kick their boards repeatedly, I began to think those boards are a lot like challenges we face in our lives. If we expect a different outcome, yet keep doing the same thing over and over again that isn’t working, those challenges will never be conquered. If we want that board to break, yet keep kicking it with the same kick that has failed to break it over and over (and sometimes over, and over, and over) again, we are never going to hear that crack.

As we watched our fellow classmates face their pine challenges, drama from our personalities began to unfurl. Some people became very frustrated. Others cried. Some would not take additional instruction. Others changed their kicks, but added no additional effort. Some became very angry and embarrassed.

Boards were changed out, pine knots were located, and the instructors may have added a little more tension on the boards for some, but in the end…

We all broke our boards!

Some were so proud they could have busted right there. Some jumped up and down and squealed. Some were grinning from ear to ear. Some were surprised they were able to do it (that was me). But I think we were all shared in the relief that it was over.

In the end, one of the instructors said that breaking boards is 50% physical and 50% mental.

Probably a lot like life’s challenges. You give it your best shot, you change your techniques, maybe even have a backup plan, but in the end, even if that board doesn’t break, you’ve probably learned something you can use again.

May all your kicks be hard and fast and may all your boards have a distinct weakness.

And may my toe heal up fast since I broke it during the first 15 minutes of the three-hour test!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4


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