You Thought You Were on Vacation?
(written 9/10/2015)

Yesterday were the first Haidong Gumdo and Taekwondo classes since August 5th at the Brooklyn Center dojang. Odyssey Academy was installing a new gym floor, and us martial artists were given a vacation.

A break was nice. August was a bit busy, and having no obligations on Monday or Wednesday, the first week was a bit freeing. By the second week, however, the bunch of us formerly known as the Yellow Belt Advancement Group were getting itchy to practice sword together. A few black belts got wind of this, and one organized a “Swords, and Maybe Food” event. It was a great night which got turned into a “Food, and Maybe Swords” event due to weather. (Cold and rainy in August? You’re killing me, Minnesota.) Many of us shared a meal, some drinks, and excellent conversation that evening. It was a relaxing way to spend time with the Gumdo family. Yet a second week went by without any organized training. Of course, my fellow martial artists were practicing on their own, like all good martial artists do. But we desired the camaraderie and challenge of practicing together.

A few of us had never stopped the habit of meeting at Odyssey. They simply trained outside on the field. When I heard this, it was on. Monday of the third week without class, myself and several other fellow students showed up for some training led by a senior black belt. It was a gorgeous evening. The wind was refreshing and going through basics in a semi-formal setting after so long was invigorating. It was also an opportunity to prepare for the two demos over Labor Day weekend. And so the remainder of August and the beginning of September passed, and I went to about three or four of the outdoor training sessions. These were structured, but also relaxed. We chatted, we drank water when we wanted, and everyone took turns leading Ssangsu Gumbub Il bon. On one evening, my ten-year-old son lead basics while counting in Spanish! Meeting in such a fashion was near perfect. I was still a little unsure of what to expect for the demos, but that was more due to a lack of experience than any other factor.

Over Labor Day weekend, the gumdo family showed up at two popular events: MetaCon and the Renaissance Festival. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to MetaCon so I can’t speak for how exciting that must have been, but I was at the Ren Fest all day Sunday and Monday. And it was awesome. The green belts rocked Ssangsoo Gumbub Ee Bon in a diamond or triangle pattern. Our kiaps roared across Shepherd’s Green. The black belts looked fierce, our demo tops and uniforms were crisp, and the mat and potato cutting was precise! (Except for my cuts: I need more practice on that!) Even in the humidity, we performed at our best. I had practiced, I had even gone biking and to the gym a few times. I felt physically strong and fit.

And then yesterday we had class. We. Worked. I put my all into everything I did, but I was struggling. My legs were shaking on the Sodo-ses. I was wobbling during Gum Gae Dong Lip Pal Sung Sae. What was wrong with me? Hadn’t I been working out? Hadn’t I made an effort to stay fit during the month long break? I was even hurting doing a horse stance during Taekwondo! Mind over body, I kept repeating to myself, but it didn’t seem to matter!

It was at some point during the two hours I spent on the new gym floor that I realized something: a vacation is a mental thing. I may have been physically putting forth some effort, but I hadn’t been mentally there. Martial arts had become more of a social activity in the month off class, and I hadn’t been focusing on advancing my personal craft. I was having a blast, but I wasn’t truly working hard on progressing and deepening my understanding of the art. And that was apparent to me last night. I had taken a mental vacation. And yesterday was the first time I had mentally clocked back into the rhythm of Monday-Wednesday hour-long, hard-floor, Master-in-the-front classes. Vacation’s over. Time to get back to work, physically and mentally. Time doesn’t stop because a person takes a vacation. The rest of the world moves on, and one can never go back to how things were before the break. The body and the mind need that regular training, which is a truth that always seems to sneak up on me whenever I am back in class.

Still, I don’t want to stop the fun that was started during the month long break. I work hard so that I can play hard. And what more enjoyable people to play with than my martial arts family! I propose more student-initiated gatherings and practice events, in addition to regular class, so that we can all encourage each other to continue our growth as martial artists. Let’s not forget the truth that the body and mind need regular training, but also make time for the soul to connect with others.

Sarah B. Olson

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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