My Life has Changed Because of Taekwondo

Taekwondo has been a major part of my life for the past 28 years. It has grown from a curiosity to a way of life. I am proud to be a part of the Taekwondo community. I feel good about my abilities, my achievements and my impact on many others. I started Taekwondo more out of curiosity than for any other reason.  Like many, I had preconceived ideas about Martial Arts in general, based more upon television, movies etc. than reality.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a great instructor who became a friend and mentor. Taekwondo became a way of life for me.  It was not only fun and a great workout but became a greater, larger learning experience. As I progressed through the ranks, I became more enamored with Taekwondo and soon started going to as many classes as possible. I loved the competition as well as the development of many close friendships and soon learned that the trust and hard work that is necessary for training creates many bonds that go beyond other sports… it is impossible not to become close to people and partners that you entrust daily with your well being in a contact sport.

There are many positive elements of Taekwondo. They are best captured in the tenets: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit.  As you grow and progress through your training, you come to understand and practice these traits until hopefully, they become a part of your every action.

I started Taekwondo at the ripe old age of 37. Beginning at that age had its mix of both positive and negative aspects. I was an adult, father and had an established career. On the other side, I was not sure of my physical abilities and whether my body would be up to the challenge. I learned over the next four years under the tutelage of my instructors to develop my abilities, strengths and to strive to overcome any challenges… whether physical or mental. When I began, I did not even entertain the thought of someday becoming a black belt, but after 4 years of hard work and dedication, the day finally arrived. That day certainly became one of the highlights of my life.

I continued training and after two more years, decided to test for my 2nd Dan. The development between 1st Dan and 2nd Dan was very rewarding and was to soon become a preview for future growth. I had always been comfortable with teaching and sharing my knowledge with others, but those two years of training was dedicated to not only my growth as a student but of my abilities as a teacher. After achieving my 2nd Dan, my whole Taekwondo world was about to undergo a MAJOR change. My instructor and his family were moving out of town and our group was suddenly without an instructor.  Without going to detail, we accepted another fellow student who was designated to take over the reins.

While his teaching style was much different than what I was accustomed to, I supported and helped my new instructor through his own learning challenges as well as my own for the next three years. While I didn’t always see eye to eye with his teaching style, I worked hard and successfully tested for my 3rd Dan. Soon after, several former students (as well as current students) approached me about the possibility of teaching and starting my own school. After much thought and soul searching, I started my own school in September 1999. I have learned so much in the past 19 years of teaching, that it sometimes seems that I am once again a white belt!

I started out pretty much teaching in the style that I learned from my original instructor and continue to use many of those techniques to this day. I taught two nights a week after working 50-55 hours a week at my job. It helped to release my daily life stress. Taekwondo was my release!

I do admit that there are many days when I would like to go home and just relax…but once I get to class all those feelings just melt away and I become totally focused on Taekwondo.

Teaching Taekwondo is much more than just showing up at class and doing techniques, etc. I spend many hours a week working on teaching strategies, charting progress, attendance, ordering supplies, etc. This part of teaching does sometimes become tedious and cumbersome, but it is MY choice and is the way that I choose to teach.

I believe in structure, and in doing so, I have lesson plans and goals that I set for our students. I constantly challenge myself in my teaching techniques and always look to mentors, other instructors, reference material and the Internet for new ideas. I am blessed with the luxury of having several black belts (that I have trained as well as those who have come from other schools) to help in teaching classes. It has been both rewarding and a privilege to watch the black belts progress. I give them guidance and advice while allowing them to teach and learn within their own abilities. They are valued companions, peers, partners, and close friends.

I am a big proponent of striving to inspire others, whether through actions, example, inspirational thoughts, quotes, etc… Taekwondo gives me the perfect opportunity to achieve these aspirations. As the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child” or my personal favorite variation of this infamous quote, “It takes a big heart to teach little minds”. We have many inspirational posters, quotes, photos, drawings from the children, a play area and reference library etc., in our dojang. 

The principle that we live, love and play by is: “The Family that Kicks Together Sticks Together”.  While this quote is and has been used by many (I don’t know who the original author may have been), it IS our way of life. Having my own school, a constant influx of students and parents is an everyday learning experience that I would not trade for anything.  It has been challenging, sometimes trying, but always rewarding. 

It is my way of life.

Michael Ivester
5th Dan Kukkiwon
World Taekwondo
The Taekwondo Center
Carondelet Park Rec Complex

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