This time of year it almost seems cliche to write a post about gratitude. I would like to think that I practice gratitude on a daily basis, but the other day I had a moment of such pure gratitude that I felt it needed to be shared. It is the most mundane things that can remind of how blessed we are. For me it was the simple image of my Taekwondo uniform drying on a hanger.
This is a very common thing in our home. My uniform is either being worn, or being washed. So it is very often hanging somewhere in the house drying. As I walked past it the other day, I was struck by how truly grateful I am to do the work that I do as well as a bit amazed at ALL of the small details that had to fall into place to get me where I am today. So how did I get here?
My first exposure to Taekwondo was watching classes take place in the gym I went to. I walked by that class every Monday and Wednesday for several weeks before I gained the courage to talk to the instructor and finally try a class. I am truly grateful for my first instructor, a man very dedicated to the martial art and to his students that made me believe that my overweight 25-year-old self could become a martial artist.
The ONE consistent thing in my life in the past 15 years since I took that very first class has been Martial Arts. I got married, had my son, moved across the world (not ONCE, but TWICE), lost 120 pounds and found my true self. At each milestone my Taekwondo family celebrated with me, wished me well, welcomed me back, and they continue to support me from afar and still welcome me into a class anytime I decide to visit.
Moving to Prague the second time around and knowing it would be long-term and possibly permanent, it was never a question of whether or not I would keep training, just a question of HOW that would happen. Again the details began to fall into place. My son’s school was looking for new after school program options and here I was a certified Taekwondo Instructor. That is where the first seeds of Martial Arts Academy Prague were planted. I am forever grateful to Riverside School and the staff there who have been incredibly supportive of me and my program! I wasn’t even sure I could teach in Europe, but once I had my license to teach, I was introduced to a growing community of schools here in Europe that operate under the same system that I trained in. How amazing is it that the community already existed 5000 miles from my original Taekwondo school to welcome me and my students.
ATA Europe, as this community is called has become my new Taekwondo family and I am so grateful for the inspirational school owners and Instructors that support and challenge each other to grow and thrive and be the best at what we do. I have found a mentor, who never tires of my questions (I hope) and is willing to talk me through any decision big or small. I have found friends and like-minded people from all over the world who are proud to be Professionals in the teaching of Martial Arts. ATA Europe is growing like never before thanks to very strong and focused leadership. I am proud and grateful to be a part of this group! It is this group that finally gave me the courage to open the full time Academy. It was a long process to find the right space and get the business up and running but every time I walk in the door I am reminded of how blessed I am.
Finally, I am so very grateful for my students. In the end, the reason I am passionate about what I do is because of the positive changes I see in my students everyday. The 6 year old boy who goes from never saying a word in class to making eye contact and confidently saying “yes ma’am”. The adult women who are discovering that they CAN be fierce and powerful. The teenagers who are learning that character building is as important as the physical work. Every time a student or a parent thanks me for the changes they are seeing, I take it to heart. I find such joy in watching my students challenge themselves to improve both in the Academy and in life. I am proud of each and every one of them!
Obviously the journey hasn’t always been positive. Students leave, and every time I ask myself if I could have done something differently. As a female instructor I sometimes feel I am fighting stereotypes to prove I am capable of excelling at this job. I struggle with feeling inferior to my Instructor peers who have a hundreds of students and seem to have such natural skill. As a 40-year-old, keeping in shape and continuing to be able to inspire my students is a constant concern. It is my goal to still be able to deliver an amazing class at 60 years old, so I have to make sure my body can keep up with my mind! However, the positive things that Martial Arts has brought to my life make all these worries pale in comparison.
It has been quite the journey. A small decision at any point over the last 15 years would likely have me in a completely different place. I think it is this more than anything else that stopped me in my tracks the other day as I looked at that uniform. Life could so easily have taken another path. Yet here I am, and I leave classes with a sense that I am fulfilling the purpose I was meant for and THAT is powerful and something to be unceasingly grateful for.