Friday, January 6, 2012

Tales from the Other Side

By Chris Landis, yellow belt
Martial Arts for Kids and Parents!

The boys were extremely excited to know that dad was going to be a white belt . . .

After six months of classes at the Colorado Taekwondo Institute, Westminster Campus, I’m writing this for those parents and adults who look in on the classes from the spectator’s seats to give you a small taste of the experiences I've encountered on “the other side of the glass”.

I have two teenage sons (recently increased to 3 with the introduction of a foreign exchange student) that attended CTI approximately six months before I got the opportunity to join them.  I found myself often watching them when I would pick them up from a workout and wonder if I could survive such a workout and what it would be like to participate with the boys in such a physical activity.  Apparently, I wasn't as quiet about my dreaming as I thought or my wife’s ability to see right through me is far more advanced than I gave her credit for, as she provided me with one of the best Christmas presents I've ever received – a six month membership to CTI.

You must realize a few things about me to really appreciate the insights I’m providing.  First, being a 42+ year old manager of software support organization, the greatest amount of exercise that I normally participated in was the walk from my vehicle to my desk, or the occasional walk from my desk to the vending machines on another floor of the building (only if the local machines were out of my favorite afternoon snack…).  To say the job I was in was sedentary and that I was out of shape would be an understatement.  Granted, we have a full complement of  exercise equipment in the basement at home that I would occasionally get interested in for a week before life took over and they returned to convenient clothes hanging repositories and multi-level stacking and sorting devices.  The other issue I dealt with is that as work stresses mounted with the challenges of keeping customers happy and meeting budgetary requirements, I found that I would spend much of my time at home dealing with work issues, extending the stress, and missing out on time with the family.  So, when I opened the Christmas gift and imagined the workouts that my out-of-shape physique was destined for and the time commitment the work outs would require, a bit of panic set in.

The boys were extremely excited to know that dad was going to be a white belt in their class (they had advanced in rank to Orange belts by this time) and were dreaming of the opportunity to “help” me out as long as I addressed them as “sir”.  The adventures began with the initial “Intro” session where my boys participated with Master John Sautel in walking me through the CTI expectations in class protocol and Master Sautel set the groundwork for inter-rank respect and boundaries for us as a family to follow to keep us safe and supportive of each other.  It was very apparent that the respect and discipline that is discussed in the brochures was a way of life in the CTI family, not just a way to keep a class under control.  Master Sautel was also very clear that as I started my adventure that it was important for me to not try to keep up with the teenage boys, but to work into this at my own pace and to protect myself against over doing it (including in-class reminders like “for those over 29, be smart about this …”).

After my intro session, it was exciting to start attending regular classes.  I struggled with the first hurdle of counting to ten in the Korean language and filling out my first written assignment, but persevered and obtained my white belt.  The ensuing six months of classes took me through learning basic moves, poomse, self defense and one step sparring drills.  Each of these activities held its own challenge for me with both training my body to perform the moves and mentally learning and remembering the sequences for each.  The boys often provided assistance in helping me remember these basic activities I had been taught in class since they had progressed past them, but never entertained taking me past what I had been taught by the black belt instructors.  I found myself coming home from the classes when I had received a “stripe” and presenting my new achievements to my wife much like the boys do each time they get recognized with advancements.  We all laugh and have fun with my achievements at home, but it has been very rewarding from a personal perspective of achieving these advancements and sharing in the process with my boys with a level of understanding of what they’re experiencing rather than just being supportive of their efforts.

Another interesting phenomenon has also occurred as I modified my schedule to support attending classes two nights a week.  I find that each night I attended class, after having a stressful day at work; I literally had to empty my mind to focus on the learning that had to take place during the class. This forced me to completely leave the challenges of work behind and remove the mental stress of my job for that night.  This mental decompression, along with a very physical work out, has improved my stamina and ability to handle both work and family challenges.  It has also improved my physical condition and the benefits of fitting into clothes I've not tried to get into for years doesn't hurt either.

So, next time you hear of a “family night” or are given the opportunity to participate in an “intro” session, I encourage you to give it a try to physically experience what your kids are participating in or what you see from your spectator’s seat.  The possibilities are endless, and I assure you that the staff at CTI will be supportive and protective of your physical and mental well being to the best of their abilities.


I hope you can tell by my short ramblings that the experience with CTI has been one of extreme satisfaction, personal achievement, improved family connections, and of respect for the staff and students of CTI.  I can honestly say that every black belt in the school that I've worked with demonstrates every tenet of respect and CTI values that I learned of in the intro session from Master Sautel, not because they were reminded to, but because it is ingrained in their training and the approach followed to turn them into leaders for CTI is consistent and purpose driven.  I see consistent  examples of upper ranking students teaching and encouraging fellow students in a positive fashion and as a parent and I’m excited to have my boys involved with such an organization as CTI.

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