The Warrior in Autumn (Guest post by Bill Hedrick)

Bill Hedrick & Master F. (Nov 2016)

Bill Hedrick & Master F. (Nov 2016)

The following post was written by Bill Hedrick, a 60+ year old 3rd Gup student, who has been an inspiration to many as we watch him work. You can see a bit more about Bill on his Facebook page. BTW, he’s also a Klingon!


I thought of calling this the warrior in winter, but I’m not planning on a toes up anytime soon.

When you are a young person and healthy, you are immortal, at least in your own mind. You can run, jump, play; you don’t need dedication and work to contort your body into whatever shape needed.  When I was young, I wasn’t that fast but had some real strength. The muscle went on easily, but the willingness to work didn’t follow. I was an indifferent shot-puter. My basketball career was a “should have been,” I was 6’3” 200+ lbs, in 1968 that would have been a solid power forward in High School. But it was work, I was averse to work. I ended up in a sedentary job in my thirties and slowly melted into the chair.

It was when I decided to act in a play with a lot of action that I realized, in my early 60’s that I was running out of time. I found Haidong Gumdo and the dedication that I have never had before. “Never doubt the courage of a desperate man.”

However I made some tactical mistakes. I assumed that at my age I could move as fast or as fluid as my classmates who were 30 and 40 years younger than me. Also I quickly learned that I needed more recovery time than I did in the old days. I can go on and on about inflexible joints, inability to get off the ground and general lack of speed, but I don’t want to whine.

The watchword for me seems to be, if you can’t do it fast, at least do it right. My sodosae may be too tall – I’m working on that – but the cuts should be perfect. The turns, blocks and focus drills need to be solid. Flawless performance is unobtainable even for the young, but should always be sought after.

Speed is less important than form.

The next point is one that every athletic instinct I have argues against. It’s NOT a competition. I spent fruitless hours trying to keep up with the kids. It took time but I have learned that I don’t have to be better than other students, I need to be better than me. I’m competing against two foes, the martial art itself, and myself. I can not beat gumdo, but I can surpass myself.

So, starting martial arts from a sitting position? Be realistic with your abilities, but don’t despair. It won’t come as easy as you think it will, but it will come, the key is working. Many sword wielders name their swords, I have several swords and my kagum (unsharpened practice sword) is named “Get back up.” It doesn’t matter how often you fail or fall it matters how many times you get back up.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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