Last week, I was sparring a black belt in Taekwon-do.
Let me first say, sparring is the thing I find most intimidating about the sport. I like practicing forms, I like breaking boards and kicking bags, but facing another person? A person who is unpredictable and fast and (presumably) kind and not actually intending me harm? It’s hard and scary and requires a level of situational awareness and instinctive responses that is outside my current comfort zone.
The nice thing about martial arts, though, is that you wear your skill level on the outside. In other words, I’m just a yellow belt. I’m not expected to be good at this yet. And the black belts in my school are—actually—kind, even if they don’t hesitate to clip you with a light blow to call attention to your poor blocking capabilities.
So I was sparring a black belt, looking for openings, trying high-low combinations to get inside his guard. I set up a kick, backed off when I saw he was ready for it, set it up again, set up a different one. Finally, I managed to get a kick off—and he blocked it handily. At the same time, he nodded. “You’ve got some good kicks in you,” he said. “You just need to commit.”
He was right. I hesitate too much. I second-guess myself. If a blow isn’t going to connect, after all, why bother swinging? Shouldn’t I wait to be sure?
It’s not just a Taekwon-do thing, either. This kind of hesitation is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I’m currently stuck on a short story because I can’t decide which point of view to tell it from. I’ve set it up one way, backed off, set it up another way. I need to pick something and follow it through.
And so I’m taking that one word to heart this year: commit. Commit to that kick, that block. Commit to working up to twenty-five push-ups without stopping. Commit, also, to that story, to that character. Commit to the career I’ve finally embraced. In real life, nobody knows that I’m just a yellow belt, so it’s up to me to prove I’ve got some good kicks in me. Sijak!
Sijak: in Taekwon-do, the command to begin.