Because breaking an opponent in half is not as important as keeping from being broken

I’m a second-degree black belt. Knowing that and seeing me, a tiny, shy girl, probably doesn’t surprise you much. Because of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you might believe that I can jump rooftops, smash bricks, or kill you with one move.

But that’s not me.

I’ve never gotten into a fight. I’m afraid of blood (even the sight of watery ketchup makes me sick). I hate confrontation. And, honestly, I’m not confident that I can defeat the toughest bully that comes my way.

To the other black belts at my studio, I was the quintessential karate kid—a tv gimmick, a fraud. Those men grimaced when I couldn’t perform a jump 360° spin kick. They disapproved of my teaching style and techniques saying that I was copying my father, an expert in another martial art form. They wondered why I concentrated on my schoolwork instead of wrestling and fighting. Those men believed that I had no discipline.

I may not be fast, strong, or mighty but I know I am disciplined.

I have the discipline to draw support from my father because he is older and wiser than me. I had the discipline to focus on my studies to get into college and honor my family. And unlike many black belts I have seen, I never mention that I know martial arts. To me, this is bragging—sizing up the stranger that you fear. I believe admitting that others are stronger and wiser than me is greater than wearing ten black belts on my waist.

My moment of glory was when my 80-year old Korean grandmaster lifted me by the waist to perform a bridge stretch but, unbeknownst to him, was yanking at my ponytail under his feet. My father acknowledged later that he was proud that I bore the pain in silence out of respect for my master.

Martial arts is not about fighting. It is a way of life that seeps into all aspects of our daily routine. I choose to live a disciplined life because breaking an opponent in half is not as important as keeping from being broken.

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