Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The First Month as a CTI Student

By Justin Gesso

Colorado Taekwondo Institute—a superhero factory in disguise.

If you are considering learning a martial art or are actively shopping martial arts schools, read on.  I have been sampling martial arts for years and have bounced from school-to-school.  Each school has its own advantages: some specialize in survival-situation response, some build skills for specific tournaments, and others focus on meditative aspects.  So what is the CTI differentiator?  It’s a superhero factory.  Let me explain.

I have enjoyed martial arts for a large portion of my life.  After college, however, I moved and made the mistake of not immediately signing up for a new school.  In the blink of an eye, 10 years zipped by.  I now have a wife, a three year old son, and a challenging job.  In the back of my head, I've always known I wanted to get back into martial arts, and have imagined doing so with a son.  As I took a breather to reflect on my life, I realized the time was now.

A few roadblocks were in front of me.  We all know families and jobs make for a serious lack of time.  Further, my son loves nothing more than staying at home playing, and somehow already has a packed schedule of his own.  Ignoring the roadblocks, I focused on creating motivation for my son.  Fortunately, he is very into superheroes, which I leveraged.  I talked to him about the skills a superhero needs to learn, both mental and physical.  I bridged this to what martial arts can offer.  He cut to the chase: “So if I go to this class, I can be a superhero?”  First mission accomplished.

As I shopped for schools, I went to the Littleton school of the Colorado Taekwondo Institute stood out as very kid friendly.  After talking to several of the teachers and taking the tour, it was clear they had a very balanced approach—developing students far beyond just the physical.  Regardless of the talk and marketing information, what I saw was an incredibly rich set of people.  There were kids and teenagers who welcomed us, took interest in my son, and immediately made us feel like an important part of their community.

I can now flash forward to just over a month of classes.  What have I learned in this time?  First, I’m delightfully confused and lost.  And that’s a wonderful place to be.  If I’m out of my comfort zone, it means I’m learning and improving.  My past martial arts experience is helping me slightly with the body mechanics, but there is so much to learn at CTI, inclusive of a rich culture, new language, and new customs—I’m definitely in a whole new world, and that is exactly what keeps us all young, both mentally and physically.  Further, my stress is down and I magically seem to have more time (which was previously a hurdle to joining).

And how about my son?  In this short time, he can already count in Korean.  He has learned what it means to do homework, be respectful, try his best, and earn something he can be proud of.  These earnings are manifested on his belt as two yellow stripes and one blue, symbolizing his accomplishments.  He knows exactly what it took to earn each stripe, and he shows that belt to everyone.  I’m not fully certain what his definition of a superhero is, but he is convinced he is becoming one, and I am too.

What have I learned about CTI at my time at the Littleton school?  It is creating many more superheroes than just my son.  I have never been surrounded by such an exceptional group of citizens.  People older than me are running circles around me in terms of jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups (and that’s just the warm up).  Young children and adults are showing leadership skills rivaled by business leaders I work with every day (and these children have yet to appreciate how valuable these skills really are).  As a group, the members of CTI constantly display exceptional degrees of respect, responsibility, humility, leadership, courage, community, and extraordinary physical capabilities.  I actively manage with whom I surround myself, in hopes I can absorb the greatness of others and find new ways to improve.  This greatness is displayed in CTI members of all ages.  I am beyond pleased I have found CTI; I am in the midst of superheroes that are truly raising the bar out in the real world.

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