15 years ago, I was just a little 8 year old boy. Happy, adventurous, curious, and eager. When I was 8 years old my parents made the decision to put myself into a martial art — Tae Kwon Do. From the very first moment I stepped foot into that martial art school, I fell in love. From the kicking, the punching, the friends I made, the hard trainings, the tears that fell down my face when I couldn’t do a certain drill. I loved every single moment of it. Everyday I kept going back for more and more. Doesn’t matter that the day before I had to do 1000 kicks, I went back because it brought me so much joy. I would gripe with fellow classmates about how it hurts so much to walk down the stairs, how it hurts to laugh because of that certain core workout, or how much Instructor X yelled at us that class beforehand. Not gripe out of spite, but because I enjoyed that class.
I was captivated. I had no idea that this could get any better. Well, I found out that it gets A LOT better. You can compete in Tae Kwon Do. I can spar other people. I can kick them. I can hit them HARD. That got me excited.
I can remember my first competition. I had 4 fights. I lost in the finals. But, I came out happy. I hugged my mom as she said I did a good job. I was happy, my first time competing and I came out with second place. The adrenaline was still pumping in my veins.
I used to watch in class as the instructor chose others to demonstrate certain kicks/drills — That person, became me. I used to listen about how fast someone is — That person, became me. We would be told to ask this person for advice in sparring — That person, became me. I’m not ashamed to say that I became that best in that school. But being the best in that school wasn’t enough, I wanted to test my own abilities. I loved this sport, pushing my body to my limits was something I came to enjoy. I knew it was for my next competition, to test myself. I grew older from the little boy to teenager to adult. I changed coaches, changed teammates, changed cities. My love for the sport never changed though. Until recently.
I made a decision 2.5 years ago coming off of a few disastrous losses and a 2nd place finish at the Canadian Nationals. I was competing nationally for 6 years at that point, attaining podium finishes, but it wasn’t enough. In my current city I knew I wasn’t going to get my 1st place finish I so badly wanted and I had to make the jump to move cities, leave everything behind — family, friends, girlfriend, schooling, safety, comfort, financial stability — if I wanted to make my dream of representing Canada in Tae Kwon Do a reality. Long story short, I made the move.
I gave myself 2 years. I told myself, in 2 years — I will make national team. Not once have I ever set a goal like that for myself. I was 21 and young and ready. I was hungry. I wanted that gold. I commit myself to training. At times I did lose focus, but I always had people to rely on to get me back on track. But I always came back to training. Nationals 2015 was a tough one, lost in the finals by 1 point. But, I came back to training. Mind was set — I’m preparing for that big one 2016 Canadian Nationals.
Soon enough that second year came around. Leading up to the tournament, I was ready. I was in amazing shape, I had all the tools I needed to succeed, the best support, the best coach. I would ramp myself up everyday — tell myself I’m the greatest, I’m the fastest, I will win. I told myself I that have fun in that ring and the gold medal will come to you. And I had so much fun fighting in that ring. I felt like everything was flowing beautifully. I knew it, I felt it, this is it, this is my year.
Competition day. Feeling amazing. Good warm up. Looking good. Feeling good. I’m going to win. First fight, RO16 — Win. Hard first fight. But I came out with the W. Had fun, stayed calm, played my game. Good now I have to focus on the next fight. Second fight RO8 — Win. Easy fight. Third Fight Semi Finals — Loss. Just like that. My dream ended.
I could only hold my emotions in till I walked back through that curtain into the warm up area. I cried. I lost. I tried so hard, trained so hard, gave up so much. I kept crying. I have never felt so much emotional turmoil than I did at that moment. No break up, no pet loss, nothing compared to the hurt I felt. I tried to calm myself, but that only made the tears come out harder. I tried to tell myself “Other athletes have had it worse, some have been cheated out of the Olympics, yours isn’t THAT bad, it’s just a national team spot.” Didn’t help, I kept crying. All I could think about was that I couldn’t do it. I gave it everything I had and I failed. Failure. Failed everyone who looked up to me, who believed in me. I failed myself.
I am a disappointment. To myself. I’ve put so many years into this sport and when I committed to trying to attain my one single goal I’ve had since I was 10. I couldn’t do it. That moment the match ended in 1–0 overtime for my opponent, my love for the sport was lost. Fuck a 3rd place medal, I’ve gotten better results the past 2 years. Fuck those second place medals. I’m thankful for who I’ve become and the opportunities TaeKwonDo has given me, but it ripped my heart out.
Tae Kwon Do is analogous to a relationship for me. It had it’s ups and downs. It’s good times and it’s bad. But at this point I feel as if our relationship has run it’s course. I put my heart and soul into her and I’m not getting anything back anymore. No more happiness, no more looking forward to that next class, just discontent. I’m still training, but my heart isn’t there anymore, the fire isn’t there. I’m like a husband trying to rekindle his fire with his wife, but it’s not working. The embers are there, but I don’t have any wood to toss on it.
This is not some story with a happy ending. But, I know I’m going to keep trying to relight that fire till I either hate Tae Kwon Do, or I love it again. Do or die. One more year.