Thursday, March 26, 2015

John Rhoads - Black Belt Essay

Black Belt Essay John Rhoads

When I started this journey over two years ago, getting a black belt was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I actually began as one of those parents who sits on the “other side of the glass” watching my boys, telling them to “get fit” and “stay active” while I fell more and more out of shape. Then one morning, while I was watching my boys in class, I overheard Alesia Dick (then a green belt) tell her story to another parent. It was so compelling to hear how enrolling and committing had literally changed her life. I have only recently told her about the role she played in my decision, but I did enroll that following month. 

 My first class (in fact, first month) was more than intimidating. To see these kids, (most of them one-third my age) and the things they could do only reinforced that I needed a change. I had become so busy with work and other commitments, that I neglected one of my largest ones – to stay healthy and around for my wife, and to set an example for my kids that staying active is a whole life commitment that doesn’t end when you “grow up”. 

 In the more than two years that I have been at enrolled I have noticed a dramatic difference in my health, stamina and mental toughness. The first time I sparred, I was reminded that my mind still thought I could do things that my body reassured me were no longer possible. But with the patience of instructors like Mr. Strickland, Mr. Cain, and also Mr. Emerson and Mr. Woodard (who were probably more helpful than they know), I started to get better. My body began to catch up to my mind. 

 Another really cool thing began to happen – this began to be my community – a place where people like Rick, Ken, Bill, Alesia, Dan and Lloyd knew me, knew about my family and goals. And we encouraged each other, working hard to get just a little better every day. And when we went through things like heart surgery on my 11-year-old son, the kind words, prayers and understanding of my TKD community was great encouragement to my entire family. 

 Please do not misunderstand; it has been hard work. Sometimes the biggest victory was just getting to class. My work schedule requires a lot of out-of-town travel. And my wife and I have found so many other parents in the same situation as ours. But I always find a team there that supports each other, laughs together, works together, struggles together, and succeeds together. 

 I still get nervous whenever I have to spar or test. But I know that the person on the other side of the ring is helping me get better. Whether it is to say “great kick” – when I catch them in the chest with a jumping twist-kick (my favorite), or “nice try” when I miss them altogether. This is my team. This is my community. I am proud to soon be a Strickland’s Black Belt.