“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent and the choices that you make will spare your life forever.”
~ A Bronx Tale
I was 4 years old when my father brought me to my first Tae Kwon Do class. I come from a family of athletes. My dad played football during his young years, my brother played as well and baseball too. He even tried martial arts, but he quit. Certain family members of mine also competed in martial arts. It was inevitable for me to join some sort of sport. I would play catch in the front yard with my dad or practice football plays when I got a bit older. I was never part of a team, until I started martial arts.
My dad would hold my hand everywhere we went. Crossing the street and on the sidewalks too. I would always say, “Oww Daddy, you’re squeezing my hand too tight.” We lived not too far away from the school. My dad drove the Camry and parked on one of the side streets.
We got out of the car. He asked, “What do we do when we are crossing the street?”
“We look both ways,” I said.
We checked twice each way and walked across the busy street to the school. The school had a burgundy colored awning and clear double doors. My dad opened the door and told me to go in. Being that I had watched my dad train in both Jiu-Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do, he always told me, it was a sign of respect to bow when you enter a Dojang (school).
Without even realizing, I bowed as soon as my dad opened the doors. I was immediately drawn to the big crowd on the red mat. Everyone wore white uniforms and I was fascinated by the high kicks and the sparring I had observed. Everything was almost like a blur, I tried to focus on one person at a time. I enjoyed the sound the gi’s (uniforms) had made when the students would throw a punch or kick. The instructor at the front of the room, who would soon become one of the most influential people in my life, would give commands and students would immediately respond with an action. I loved it all.
I sat on the bench on the side of the mat with the rest of the families watching. My dad sat there in awe too and he would explain what each movement meant and how to execute it. My 4 year old self was overwhelmed with the need to get on the mat. I wanted to be one of those people with the fancy technique.
When class was over, my dad introduced me to the instructor who told me to come back and try a class. I would join the children’s class on Saturday morning. I was a little too young to begin, but there was an exception made for me because he knew my father. The starting age for children was typically 5 years old. They had trained together back in the day. He told my dad to have me wear comfortable clothing.
I came back to the school that Saturday morning. My mother joined my father and me. We ate some breakfast, in this case, oatmeal because my mom wanted me to grow strong and she said oatmeal would help with that.
We arrived. I bowed. I took my shoes and socks off and got on the mat for the first time. It was like I was meant for this. The time I had watched my dad train definitely played a role in how I interacted with the class that Saturday morning. My dad had showed me how to throw a punch and how to curl your toes back when doing a front kick. I absolutely loved the freedom I felt when doing these techniques. I felt like a super-hero.
That was it. The beginning of my martial arts career. I went back every Saturday after that and I finally had a uniform of my very own.
My dad used to say, “You are talented without even giving your 100% effort. Imagine you gave 110%.”
I would get angry when he said this. But, he was motivating me to do and be an even better martial artist. Of course children want to hear the approval or validation from their parents. My dad was different. Instead of telling me what I did right, he would tell me all the things I did wrong and how to improve. He definitely had a different strategy, but I would not undo anything that has happened so far. His parenting and training techniques have also applied to other areas in my life. I always do my best, but I always strive for more. I want to be the best.
My dad always says, “Do not waste your talent. You were meant to do this.”
I would not be the person I am today without my dad taking me to my very first class.