Thursday, May 22, 2014

Setting the right goals

I recently attended a superb three-day Taekwondo training camp run by Grandmaster David Turgeon of Colchester, CT.  And on the third day of that program I had the great privilege of working with four-time World Champion Suji Kang.  Master Kang is a young woman -- in her 20s -- who humbly makes the impossible look easy.  If you want to see what I mean, check out the YouTube link at the end of this post. 
   For the moment, I want to focus on her accomplishment.  Think about this with me: the odds against being the best in the world at any sport are virtually infinite.  Among the variables that you would have to factor into the equation are natural talent, motivation, family support, quality of training, the number of other world-class competitors, the ability to overcome injuries, and, of course, plain old dumb luck.   If the sun, moon, and stars align perfectly, you might find yourself in Master Kang's position -- as the very best of the very best in an incredibly demanding sport.
   But this blog is about those of us who are 50, 60, or 70, right?  So here's a bit of tough love: none of us will ever be nearly as good as Suji Kang.  Sorry to burst that bubble, but it just won't happen, friends.  Suji Kang on her worst day is infinitely better than this 68-year-old author will ever be on his best day.  You can bet your last dime on that.
   So here's an interesting question.  If you and I have no chance whatsoever at being the best in the world, what sorts of goals should we set as we sweat and strain in our Taekwondo dojangs?   Or should we just retire to the couch with some beer and pretzels?
   A resounding no to the beer-and-pretzels path!  You practice Taekwondo because it is a way of living -- a way that links you to an honorable tradition of striving; welcomes you to the camaraderie of practitioners of all ages, races, religions, and nationalities; and encourages you to respect all others as you would like to have others respect you.   When taught properly, Taekwondo asks you to be the best person you can be . . . not just some of the time, but all the time.
   Okay, now on to the task of setting goals.  Here are a few to consider.
       1.  Become the best athlete you can be at every age.  Only you can make this happen.  And no one can ever ask more of you.
       2.  Show the utmost respect for the traditions and training methods of a martial art that has developed over many centuries.
       3.  Share your knowledge with those who know less, and humbly accept the advice of those who know more.
       4.  Consider yourself part of a very large, global Taekwondo family.   There is no "them."  There's just "us."
       5.  Enter competitions as often as you can, always with the aim of improving your skills or scores.  Winning a medal may be nice.  Attaining a new level of personal achievement is always much more satisfying.
   The Taekwondo life invites you to become more than you ever thought you could be -- physically, mentally, and spiritually.  And if becoming a better all-around person isn't a worthy goal, I don't know what is.
   You and I will never be as good as Master Suji Kang.  But she will always be our sister in Taekwondo.  Check out her video now at Suji Kang video