Martial Arts

Was I an imposter at Expo?

Summer vacation means Expo! 3 days of Taekwondo in a resort setting. While non-TKD family members relax, the students work our way through three days of practice, learning and workouts.

Before we left, I was nervous about the Expo. I think part of me has imposter syndrome. I walk into a class full of athletic practitioners and I don’t feel like one of them. I know I look different and can’t do things they can. But at Expo I saw others who were like me–starting out, doing the work but still not an image of martial art prowess and long-term dedication. That both reassured me that I wasn’t an imposter, an interloper in the taekwondo world, but just another person who was interested and trying their best.


Here’s what I learned:

I’m not so bad. I mean, I’m a yellow belt and I’ve got buckets to learn, but, I got a few things right. I actually made it through the weekend without crying or quitting. And I even had fun, and enjoyed learning some new things. It gave me hope that I could keep getting better and that I’m not a lost cause.

Because there are days I’m pretty sure my teacher is doing some serious internal eye rolling at the antics I call learning taekwondo.


That gave me the courage, in our last class of sparring, to look as stupid as I could. I’ve been afraid of kicking because I’m short and I can’t kick high and I think if I play small and do small moves, no one will notice I’m clueless in sparring.  So before class, with my newfound lack of imposter syndrome, I gave myself permission to just go out and look stupid.


Incredibly, full-on, what-the-heck-is-that silly.


To do the kicks and the punches and just try it full out, to see what i could do.  Well, I’m still not great at sparring and I feel like the light bulb hasn’t gone off yet, but I can see some improvement in my blocking and my kicking.


I was feeling pretty good about myself, at the end of the conference, because I wasn’t quite so sore and tired. I could still walk normally 🙂 Then…after an hour of sparring, which is always the toughest, hardest workout for me both physically and mentally, we sat on the floor for the closing ceremony.


Oh. my. And this isn’t a George Takei “oh my” this is a groaning “oh my” when you start feeling the reality of the situation. After a half hour on the floor, listening to speakers and awards, I realized my muscles had finally rebelled.  My back and knees had cooled off until I was the Tin Man trying to tell Dorothy I needed oil through a closed jaw. It suddenly hurt to sit with legs crossed. We had to give two standing ovations to honored speakers, and really, the second one I wasn’t sure I was going to make it all the way up.


After wrangling my son and his friend out of the swarming sea of white uniforms to get them changed out of white uniforms before lunch (I never let my kid eat while wearing his white uniform.  I mean, that’s asking for a laundry issue of epic proportions) and heading to the car (WHY is the parking lot so far away? My leg muscles asked.) The kids ran ahead as I painfully walked behind, lungs still feeling the effects of the hard work of sparring (Practice kicking non-stop the length of the room.  Go.) but I made it to the car.


We stopped at a restaurant where, in my weakness and hunger and extreme tiredness, I was actually mad that my husband stopped to talk to the kids and let four guys in line in front of us.  There’s a saying about Pitta types–feed them or they’ll eat you.  Well, I was a tiger with a growling stomach.


We stopped for gas and I realized how truly tired I was, how much my brain had worked along with my body, when the pump asked me for my zip code, and…I had to think about it.  Like, for about 15 seconds.  Long enough I was turning to ask my husband what it was when I finally remembered. Even information pathways in the brain were tired and moving slow!


I got out of the car at home and shirked any parental duties to go soak in a tub of epsom salts and then massage any muscle I could reach with mahanarayan oil.


But that’s enough humorous recounting of how I felt SO middle aged at the end of the conference.


And this leads me to a an Oscar Wilde quotes: Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. You know, I’m doing taekwondo and they do hold some fairly rigid standards and expectations, but I will fill those as me. Inside those standards will be my personality and my body type. I do wonder what my end goal is with taekwondo.  As a yellow belt, actually being a black belt seems SO far away, it’s not even real. Do I want that? Not sure, but so far it’s a fun journey. And I’m shouldn’t feel like an imposter on that journey, but I should own it as just that–my journey.


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