I had two interesting conversations recently. At first they seemed to be on different topics. However, in my mind I saw a connection.
The first conversation revolved around the serenity prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
In Tae Kwon Do, there is much we can control and some we cannot. Our size, for example, we cannot control. However, how much or how often we practice we can control. Our flexibility, we cannot control immediately, but we have the power to change it over time. And then it hit me - the wisdom is not just knowing to accept what we cannot change, but understanding that what we can change may not always be immediate. In this world of instant everything, time and patience are often forgotten. A black belt is not earned overnight, but over months and years of investment and dedication, just like a successful career, a degree, or a successful marriage. In fact, any relationship requires understanding that investment and power to develop and improve, despite setbacks.
The second conversation involved understanding how to execute a particular technique. The student understood everything that was said, and even every step in the process. However, the sum of the parts - the correct and successful execution of the technique, step by step, required more. Immediate understanding, a.k.a. "being a natural", is not something over which we have control. However, perseverance to practice in order to help that intellectual understanding become a feeling which we can internalize and take ownership for, that is something that we can change.
Labels of "smart" and "dumb", "slow" or "quick learner", should not define us. We should not accept such titles, though we may not be able to control if people use them. However, we can change whether or not those labels are apt. Over time, we can move beyond the rote steps to find inner truths about Tae Kwon Do and ourselves. And that is what makes Tae Kwon Do a martial art.