by Eric Wilson
(Note: This is a slightly condensed version of an article that appeared in the March/April 1990 newsletter for the Korean Martial Arts Center) In the nearly three years I've been taking Hapkido, I have gained physical and mental skills I never thought possible. While I have no illusions of achieving immortal fame through martial arts, I can point tot he the progress I've made so far, and establish goals to work towards in the future. Like many others, I was not born with the skills one would normally associate with a martial artist. I've never considered myself to be an athlete of any type, so why at the age of 33 (senior citizen by most athlete's standards), with chronic asthma, lifetime back problems, mild dyslexia and one leg shorter than the other (not exactly what I wanted to have in common with Bruce Lee), did I decide to try Hapkido? A major reason was to find a means of dealing with an increasingly stressful situation in my life. So out of curiosity I sat in on a class at the Embarcadero YMCA and was relieved to find many preconceived notions about martial arts work outs were not true. The instructor did not beat anyone with a stick in case of a mistake. No one was carried out on a stretched with broken bones. While it did look strenuous, I felt I wouldn't collapse in the midst of class. The instructor spent some time afterwards answering my questions and putting more fears to rest. What I felt were daunting physical limitations could be overcome. All it took was desire and hard work. It would be nice to say that once I started I raced through the ranks and discovered that a great martial artist had been inside all the time, just waiting for a chance to break free. Nothing could be further from the truth. I struggled with off-balance kicks, bungled forms, forgotten punch and blocks, and hopeless hand techniques. Everything was so alien that I had to make major adjustments physically and especially mentally. Many times I came close to quitting, but was always talked out of it by an ever patient KMAC instructor. Finally, things started falling together. My coordination and balance improved. I began to enjoy going to class and became depressed if anything prevented me from attending. While I have accepted that it may take me longer to learn a new technique or refine an old one, at the least the word cannot no longer comes to mind. I feel I have come a long way in martial arts, and am confident that there is much more I will achieve. I have overcome some physical limitations and have learned to minimize the effects of others. While I still have no illusions of becoming the next Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, what I have received and will continue to receive is worth everything I have gone through. There is no easy answer to be a martial artist. All must be prepared to sacrifice time and tremendous energy. Even though you may feel your progress is agonizingly slow at times, stop and think how much martial arts is a part of your life. Then think of what it would be like if you had never studied. Think of what you would never have overcome. How much more stress you would be under and of the friends you never would have met. Then you will understand it is all worthwhile.
Comments? Please email me at ewilson