When I was in my mid 20’s, I took a Taekwondo class with my sister Debbie at IUPUI — which could’ve been mortifying.
A few years earlier when I was in college, I had resolved to learn one new sport each year. As each different semester came I added one class such as canoeing, weightlifting or modern dance. In the dance class at Purdue, I was the only student with absolutely no previous dance background.
Anyway back to Taekwondo. Debbie and I were paired in class to demonstrate our techniques, which would advance us to the rank of a formidable yellow belt. Each rank in Taekwondo has basic moves that the student must demonstrate competence in before they move on to their next rank.
In unison, Debbie and I would move through our memorized strike and block hand movements, kicks and stances.
Two confident women who had grown up playing on the same kickball and volleyball teams throughout elementary and high school would once again perform as a team in front of the entire class and instructor. Strong and self-assured, we turned toward each other in “ready stance” — our legs were straight, with toes pointing straight forward, feet shoulder width apart. Our arms were held in front of the body, with closed fists and elbows slightly bent, hands about six inches away from the navel. The position we would start from, and return to.
But the originators of this martial arts discipline obviously failed to consider the “sister factor,” because as soon and Debbie and I locked eyes, we instantly saw each other as young elementary-aged girls and began to giggle uncontrollably. The kind of giggle that at first just shakes your shoulders, because you truly think you can hold in — but then erupts outward like a loud 5.0 earthquake that affects everyone near you.
This weekend, and three decades later, I found myself sitting on an Arizona mountainside reminiscing and giggling inside. Late in the day after the hubby finished a chiropractic kinesiology conference, we jumped into the rental car and set out to hike Camelback Mountain. We circled about eight times attempting to find a parking space nearby so we could finish before the sun set. Who knew that attempting to find parking to hike a mountain trail would be like driving to Speedway and attempting to find parking 30 minutes before the start of the Indianapolis 500? Like any determined Hoosier, we found another nearby mountain and set out to hike the “moderate” rocky, switchback terrain.
Every time I turned a rocky corner, thinking the summit was near, it kept getting farther away. Having hiked earlier on a level treadmill and lifted weights, I was feeling rather content in life, so after more than 90 minutes of hiking heavenward, I told the hubby to go ahead toward the summit and I’d take my time (which means repeated long rests on rocky cliffs with breathtaking views of surrounding mountains.)
I began to reminisce about learning to kayak in the IUPUI natatorium — specifically how to practice flipping upside down like a duck in a kayak, and uprighting the kayak from “hanging upside position” by flipping my hip to right the kayak and simultaneously reaching with the paddle — just in case I ever got flipped over in a rushing Class V rapid.
As two young fathers hiking with their three young children saw me daydreaming on a rock outcrop nearly 8/10 toward the summit, one father turned to the other and said, “I think we’re good for today; the kids are struggling.” They turned and headed back down.
The pregnant woman who had struck up a conversation with me and then asked me earlier on the trail to take a photo of her, since her three sons (19, 17 and 13 years of age) had run ahead toward the summit, greeted me as she hiked by. She shared that her fourth son was six weeks from entering the world.
As she continued toward the summit I had great respect for my fellow hiker, yet was utterly content — yet for a split second I did wonder if she had ever earned a yellow belt.
In Taekwondo a belt reflects a member’s proven level of competence and the progression of colors reflects an inner journey that never truly ends. Even if you never progress past a yellow belt, it reflects an inner journey that never truly ends.