I recently read an article that was emphasizing the importance of following steps and doing things in the proper order.
One always needs to clarify priorities and to have the organizational skills to do things in their proper order. This is an important tool for accomplishing anything in life. One needs to know and identify what must be done and then an order of priorities must be established. We will never have enough time to do everything we would like to do. By being aware of the order of importance of what you have to do, you will ensure that you will effectively accomplish the most possible within the limitations of the time allotted to you.
Sometimes, as a Tae Kwon Do practitioner, I feel overwhelmed by everything that I need to (and want to) practice. There is form. There is board breaking. There is kicking. There is free sparring. And, each of these categories includes a long list of possible techniques. It is impossible to practice them all in one class. In fact, practicing all of it in one week is a daunting challenge! Being a devoted lover of Tae Kwon Do, I let my passions and interests guide me in one direction or the other. If I am “getting bored” or not feeling motivated enough in one area, I can always turn my attention elsewhere within the art.
However, what is the proper order of what to practice and when? Every belt has a piece of each one of these categories (except for board breaking which is only focused on at certain levels). Each belt should build on and incorporate the previous level’s knowledge and emphasis. Even with this breaking down of the curriculum, the “sub-chunks” that each belt presents us is still a rather broad amount of information to confront.
Some students really love form. The subtle intricacies of each ancient movement and the challenges of manipulating one’s body and uncovering the secrets within one’s body and the movements offer endless challenges and excitement. For others, working on perfecting a kick so it is more beautiful and powerful than anyone else’s or any other technique offers a similar challenge. Some like to work on the timing of when to properly implement different techniques and strategies when free-sparring. The excitement of feeling one’s power and understanding how to use it in relation to someone else can be invigorating. The challenge of finding the focus, discipline and power to confront a solid mass of wood and decimate it is a fulfilling goal for some, too. Though there are similarities in all these aspects, often the differences are what create the different paths for different students.
What I see as the one of the many uniting principles of these different aspects is the concept of progress. What makes a perfect kick at any given level is not as important as the path traveled to get there, and the fact that while the area we love the most improves, that progress slowly spills over into other areas as well. Even at the threshold of earning a black belt, we all find our area to excel which helps to counterbalance the areas where we struggle more. This is what makes each belt so personal. There is the content, and there is how we approach it. Black belt is not about the physical power we yield, but the mental power and progress we demonstrate to get to where we are at any given moment. This makes black belt, and really every belt, very personal. We all practice the same movements and the same kicks, but we all have different levels of progress and excellence. At the end of the day, we need to track our progress in the proper order - the path that best suits our abilities at that time. As we get closer to black belt, our strengths help us to strengthen our weaknesses. This is where we are forced to expand our minds and deepen our progress across the broader canvas of the art.
Though for many ultimately achieving black belt is seen as a final goal, black belt is not the end, but the beginning - the beginning of our understanding that we are ready to truly learn and progress. Just like the wisdom of old age, we each get there by following our own path. By the same token, there is an order to how we age, and there is an order and structure to how we pursue the art of Tae Kwon Do.