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Sunday, June 16, 2024
The Observer

The five tenets

“A black belt is a white belt that never quit,” — and that’s exactly what I was thinking as I stepped up and bowed to Master Lindeberg. It had taken me three years to get to this point, and my commitment to the art of taekwondo had grown from a bi-weekly family activity to a way of life. My family was forced by my mom, wanting us to have more “family time,” to spend an hour a day together at taekwondo. Eventually, we chose to spend time together during our nightly family dinners, often sitting for hours, talking and laughing.

On test day, I stood in line, looking down at my candidate belt, a bright red belt with a black stripe, waiting to start the test. I shifted my gaze to my toes and wiggled them in the wet grass. I looked across my row to the rest of my family: my older brother, my little sister, my mom and my dad. Our crisp, white uniforms looked dull and damp as the rain began to pour. “Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit,” echoed throughout the outdoor field as we testers chanted in unison and waited nervously to begin. Those strong words, the five tenets, are chanted before each class, each tournament and each test. We recite them to remind ourselves why we practice taekwondo, and how we live our lives.

I first joined taekwondo as a self-conscious fourth grader after an exhaustive search for a sport that required no spectators’ eyes on me. I always stood in the back row so I wouldn’t be seen. As I worked my way up through the 15 belts, I also worked my way toward the front of the room, feeling more and more comfortable in class. The consistent practice and desire to achieve helped me overcome my shyness and lead to new friendships with other students working toward a common goal.

The main goal of taekwondo is to “achieve total mind and body control through training”. While in class, we’re expected to have one priority: taekwondo. While learning this concentration through sport, I‘ve also learned to apply it to other aspects in my life. Meditation before classes, tests and sporting events helps to clear my mind and improve my focus.

Most importantly, taekwondo taught me to be comfortable with who I am. I went from being too afraid to perform at my violin recitals (yes, I was that girl who stayed in her mom’s arms the whole time and cried in fear) to being comfortable giving speeches in front of a large group. My newfound confidence gave me the courage to be myself and explore new things.

At the end of the two-hour test, once I had finished my grueling 50 pushups on the boards I had broken, I contemplated what this really meant for me. I walked over to Master Lindeberg and bowed as he awarded me my black belt. As I moved away, I realized that this black belt was a symbol of so much more than passing a final test. I had grown to appreciate a new way of life based on respect and discipline. I continue to take the knowledge I’ve gained through taekwondo and the five tenets with me as I explore what I love and pursue my academic goals at Notre Dame.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.