Taekwondo family ❤️❤️

7:15:00 PM Tkd kwan 0 Comments

My name is Gavin Gallot, and I am a Black Belt at Richmond Taekwondo in Nelson, New Zealand, training under Master Hamish Wybrow.
When I was asked to write my story for World Taekwondo Family, at first I wasn’t sure what you write about.  Then I realised that my story is about 2 things – the positive effects that martial arts can have on our lives and, secondly, the positive parenting that can be achieved through martial arts.

My personal journey in martial arts begun, like many kids, when my older brother brought home some Bruce Lee VHS tapes, and was further sparked by one Daniel-San and Mr Miagi, in another well known movie. It wasn’t necessarily the “underdog overcomes the bully” story of this movie that hooked me, but more the growth that martial arts provided the hero. The idea that it could enrich one’s mind and body at the same time and change your life (if you let it).    Little did I realise then that it would take me almost 40 years but I would obtain my own Black Belt and Taekwondo would be shaping my life and the life of my children.

Roll forward a few years and to my huge excitement, one of the black belts from Seido Karate Nelson moved to Tapawera and started an off-shoot club.  I was member #1 of this new club and Karate became my passion for the next two or three years until I headed off to university.  I regret to this day not continuing my training back then.  But in hindsight, I guess the distractions that stopped me became one of the reasons I found Taekwondo.  Over those two years, Sensei Irene Boyd become one of the most important people in my life – my instructor, mentor, and in many ways idol.  Over these few years I achieved Green Belt (4th Kyu) and assisted with instructing the younger children – which also taught me a lot.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but I realise now that Irene was teaching me by asking me to teach.  Although this training was a very short time and I let it go for so long, I credit martial arts with many successes in my life.  This is the reason I was adamant that I would be introducing it to my children in due course.  Another regret, was losing touch with Sensei Irene, until many years later I heard of her passing.  The gift she gave me however, lives on.

So, when I felt the time was right, I encouraged my son, to try martial arts.  He was 7 years old at this stage.  I felt it was important for him to discover the intrigue I had felt when I was young, so I let him try many different styles and choose the one that he felt drawn to.  After several different classes, he lit up at the mix of tradition, fitness, sport and physicality that Taekwondo offered, and continues to love it today.  In 2016, I had one of my proudest moments, seeing him obtain his own black belt, at age 15 – a year younger than I was when I first discovered Seido Karate myself.  It was one of those..…”I’ve done parenting right” moments.   Last year, I started that journey again with my 7 year old daughter, who has now recently graded to yellow belt.

It was my son that helped me discover my own love of Taekwondo.  I was doing what I can’t help doing when he competes at tournaments, and offering, probably quite likely mis-informed, advice from my distant and limited past and he said, “why don’t you get in the ring?”.  And it struck me….there’s no reason at all why I couldn’t.  The following Tuesday I was standing at the back of my first Taekwondo class, at age 40.

Despite my teenage love of martial arts rushing back, and many techniques (and patterns – as I still to this day remember Karates equivalent of Taeguk Il Jang – Taikyoku Kata Sono Ichi) still fresh in my mind, those first few classes were absolute hell on a body that had been all too neglected for many years.  This is when I learnt the first Tenant of Taekwondo – Perseverance.  Slowly, the blisters stopped appearing.  The excruciating muscles the following day at work became more bearable (although they still happen to this day).  And I started to feel less uncoordinated and ‘in the way’ in the class.   What I do remember rushing back in those first few classes however, is a feeling I had back in Karate, that now stays with me in Taekwondo.  Whilst hard to verbalise what it is – its that connection and respect for the artform – that etiquette thing that still makes me always sit in the Japanese seiza-style in class (something that Karate expects, but Taekwondo often doesn’t…but I cant help myself)  – the respect and absolute awe I hold for not only any Black Belt I encounter, but also the newest of beginner in the kids class that can stretch and do things I can’t.

With the eagerness I had developed in my youth, I couldn’t wait to obtain my first belt.  The traditional meaning of the Yellow belt in Taekwondo was not lost on me – if I was the earth that that roots of taekwondo were to grow from, it had been prepared extensively over many years.  I reused my Yellow belt I had been wearing 24 years earlier as a 5th kyu in Karate – and putting on the faded, floppy and slightly ragged thing again was such a poignant experience.  As the young kids in class asked “why my belt looked funny” I wore it with such inner pride, for what it meant to me personally, it could have been black with several gold stripes! Whilst not necessarily a tenant – the Respect that I have learnt, in myself, in the art and in everyone who had come before me and achieved the journey that I was setting out on, became a massive part of the teachings that I have come to love about Taekwondo.

My next lesson in the Tenants of Taekwondo came when I first stepped into the ring at a tournament – and in this case it happened to be in Australia at the Gold Coast Open.  I had, of course, sparred in class, and watched several tournaments prior, but its not until you are 4 points to nothing down, in round 3, against someone 20kg lighter (and fitter), 6 years younger, and 3 belts higher, in your second fight (and second loss) of the day, that your body pipes up and suggests perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea.  This is where you call on your self control and indomitable spirit to make it through – and remind yourself you aren’t here to beat or impress anyone but yourself.  The following day the size of my limp was eclipsed by the size of my smile when I ran into (or should I say hobbled into….) my opponent, from Perth, of the day before at Movie World.  The mutual respect and courtesy between us echos more of the Tennants and furthers my understanding of the intricacies of benefits of Taekwondo.  2 years later I returned to Australia and fought the same person.  Unfortunately, the result was the same, but the manner in which it happened and my ability was not – my body faired better and my head held up even higher.  Again, I shook hands with someone who has become one of many I consider my “taekwondo family”.

Over the many other tournaments I have taken my son to, and been involved with coaching, corner judging and refereeing, the one aspect that always amazes me is that even when I was a yellow belt, the massive respect I have received from instructors, masters, parents, from other clubs sticks with me – and is what makes Taekwondo special.

This connection and comradery to the many others I have met throughout the country (and beyond) is probably one of the aspects of Taekwondo that I value the most, and despite age likely limiting me competing in Kyorugi at tournaments in the near future, has driven me to pursue my refereeing certification and experience.  It has also allowed me to give back to the sport aspect of our artform that I have grown to love, and has extended my knowledge.  It’s a whole new experience and a complete honour to be able to be out there, centre-ring, with the young up-and-coming fighters, and one the odd occasion I even get to share the ring with my own son!

I parallel this to the traditional meanings of blue belt – the heaven that the tree of my knowledge and skills now extends towards – with multiple branches – and many others helping support this tree as it extends.  I feel that it was a blue belt, that I really started to ‘click’ in my training more.  Strangely at every prior grading I had felt un-prepared and not-ready.  Obviously not a view shared by my instructor who usually encouraged (or usually ‘forced’) me to grade.
In hindsight I guess the lesson in this, that I have come to understand is that grading is not necessarily about knowing everything – it’s about progressing through ones knowledge of Taekwondo.  As the earlier belts meaning signifies – the plant growing up into a tree.
This understanding has helped me as I begun to move into instructing the odd class.  In this role, as well as it is important to teach correct techniques and skills, it is equally important to facilitate and guide others in their own journeys.  This aspect really does fascinate me – as this is the experience that appealed to me.
For my gradings to 2nd Gup and 1st Gup, I felt more well prepared – however 1st Gup is still one of the toughest experiences (and at the same time, best) I’ve had to date in Taekwondo.  It was very special to be asked by my master to complete my 1st Gup grading as part of the black belt grading, alongside my son.  Having to effectively complete a black belt grading was tough.  During this grading I was asked to attempt things physically beyond me, as well as having to finish the grading with a serious injury (broken finger) – and the tenants were certainly put to the test.  In the past, the actual process of completing a grading as not been something I have enjoyed particular – like many students, Ive found it a very daunting experience.  Again, I now realise this is a normal thing – and part of the progression and growth in martial arts.   To complete this experience, alongside my son, left us both mentally and physically exhausted, but is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had – a true parents dream realised.

Taekwondo, literally means the way of the fist and the foot, but my journey has taught me far more than this physical interpretation.  To me it means the traditional tenants of Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control and Indomitable spirit, as well as concepts such as Honesty (including to oneself), Respect, Patience, Discipline, Honour and Pride.

In March, my daughter entered her first tournament.  Again, I got to experience that wonderment of seeing another of my kids competing, and achieving (she won Bronze for Poomsae and Gold for Kyorugi).  No matter how much I achieve myself, that cannot beat the feeling of seeing my kids doing it, and being a part of their experience.

My journey, has not simply been one in Taekwondo, but in life itself, and has given me maturity as well as a proficiency of Taekwondo, however also very much an understanding that obtaining black belt in taekwondo is not the end of the journey, but just another step on the path.  I’ve learnt, and proven to myself that starting Taekwondo over 40 is nothing to fear – in fact, combined with this story, its given me an insight that many others don’t get and a richness that adds to my entire family.  These points are in fact the traditional meaning of Black Belt in Taekwondo – maturity, proficiency, and overcoming fear and darkness – achieving the life-long goal of that naïve dreamer from the 80s.
But even more than this, the richness of being able to do all this with my kids has been amazing!  I would urge every parent to take up taekwondo with your kids.  It is so rewarding to be with them, sharing in the personal development we all go through in taekwondo together.