I began Tae Kwon Do training March 25, 1981 in Elkader, Iowa under instructor Roger L. Clarke at the Northeast Iowa Branch club of Jung's Tae Kwon Do Academy. I was awarded temporary 1st dan black belt on April 16, 1983. My path in Tae Kwon Do has done much to shape my character. My parents deserve credit for instilling responsibility and accountability. However, as a young adult, I was not confident. I felt that there was potential for me to succeed in my life. I thought that the raw materials for me to live a rewarding, useful and honorable life were in me. The way to make that happen was a mystery.
When I began Tae Kwon Do training, a glimmer of understanding appeared. Perhaps martial arts practice could solidify my path to live a life of value. After these many years of training and study, I firmly know that Tae Kwon Do has imbued me with more confidence, physical health, mental stamina, an inquiring attitude ( ready to learn ) and spiritual awareness.
So many of these traits are directly related to experiences from the dojang or Tae Kwon Do events. Like I tell my students, Tae Kwon Do can only be understood by physically performing in the dojang with a competent instructor. We need physical, mental and spiritual study and growth to achieve our potential. Without any one of those three, you don't have martial art. When all three components are practiced, the result can seem magical, but is really just our human nature on display when finely tuned.
For example, after pounding the forging post for days, months and years, your fist smashes through cement blocks or stacks of boards. It isn't magic, it's martial art. Or when you place a beautiful side kick exactly on target because you've practiced 10,000 kicks already, it feels natural and it's not magic. Or you are asked to serve on a committee for leadership in an organization. It requires study, time to attend meetings and public speaking. You can do it because leading Tae Kwon Do classes has all those elements and you have developed those skills.
In July 1985 my instructor retired. He gave me the opportunity to continue operating the Northeast Iowa branch club. I have been teaching and leading that club right up to the present. We have held classes in Elkader, Monona, Guttenberg, McGregor, Waukon, Edgewood and Garnavillo. Since Roger Clarke operated all these different locations, he named the club u Northeast Iowa Tae Kwon Do". The lessons I've learned as an instructor and a part time club operator are many. I've learned the instructor must be honest yet flexible. In our small towns, rigid attitude leads to very small classes. The principles
and etiquette of Tae Kwon Do must be maintained, but application should be innovative. Everybody can potentially succeed at Tae Kwon Do. But everybody won't. I wish everybody would succeed, but all the instructor can do is show the way. Of course the method the instructor uses plays a big part in the student's success. I learned that I can be friendly with students, but I can't really be their friend. The instructor role is different than friendship. I have learned that short demonstrations are better than long ones. Leave the crowd wanting more. I know that speaking clearly in as few words as possible is good. Students are less confused and so am I. Organize the class so each student learns something; their time is valuable. Don't burden the students with your problems. Deal with your problems on your own time. But be willing to offer advice to them for their problems. The list of lessons or insights gained continues indefinitely as long as I continue teaching.
98 people have been awarded black belts through our club. That number includes Mr. Clarke's 6 students. I hope to continue to offer Tae Kwon Do classes in our small community. Whatever rank I hold does not impact my approach to teaching or training except that I feel more responsibility to be accurate in technique and honorable in philosophy. My goal is that all the people I come in contact with, in Tae Kwon Do or daily life, would be treated equally and fairly. That notion of idealism is based on selfconfidence garnered through Tae Kwon Do. I believe I can risk more personal commitment because I have experienced the results of full commitment. It isn't possible to break a stack of cement blocks wjthout it. Jt's djffjcuJt to stand jn front of students and teach Tae Kwon Do unless you believe jn yourself. The flip side of this commentary is that I also know my limitations. The years of practice and experiences have been brutally clear to me about my failings. That is how I've learned many tough lessons. I have few illusions about myself. My ultimate faith is not in myself anyway. I'm a Christian so my faith is greater than my physical being.
Tae Kwon Do is a way for me and fellow practitioners to fully develop ourselves to be the men, women and children we want to be. Self-defense is the primary description for Tae Kwon Do. That should be construed as both the physical self and the emotional or psychological self. When we practice and teach the Tae Kwon Do method, protecting ourselves from harm of either kind is possible. I really like that aspect. Students benefit greatly by gaining this skill and the resulting self-confidence. At this stage of my Tae Kwon Do career, I still have an interest in learning new material and adapting to my advancing age. I'm also keen to witness students blooming into self-confident martial artists and contributing members of our community,
The form I devised has 35 movements to commemorate the years of training I accumulated when it was created. The shape of the form is like a cross to honor my Christian faith. The form is named: Do lt.