Having a son in Taekwondo for the past 7 years has taught me so much about this amazing sport and discipline. When my son was 6, he was going through a tough time where his behavior passed the “cute” stage and so he would act out to get attention. My husband and I tried to refocus him and enrolled him in several sports before finally landing him in the martial arts. Just like gymnastics (which my daughter is enrolled in), we had no idea what this journey would entail.
The road was bumpy with him going at first yet, his master was so calming and seemed to really understand children and so we trusted him. He had a way with my son that although he would act out on occasion, he always knew what to do–whether it be discipline, redirecting or praising him. I truly admired his ways and never once interrupted him and respected that he was doing the right thing by my child.
As time went on and as he progressed, his attention span increased and his respect for his teacher grew. He was getting better at his skills and gaining confidence while he was learning valuable life lessons which were explained with every belt. I admit that although scary at first, not knowing where this was heading, I really enjoyed watching his transformation.
In my daughters gymnastic program I believe she is going through an amazing transformation as well. Although she may not be verbally learning the principles applied at every level like the martial arts, I know as she grows, her awareness grows, and with that comes wisdom.
Below is an interpretation of the principles learned as a gymnast grows through each level (similar to the belts of martial arts). If we can learn to focus on the meanings and what they are gaining, rather than the race to the top, these are the 10 principles a gymnast will learn:
Level 1- Respect
From recreation gymnastics to pre-team, the first thing a gymnast needs to learn is how to respect their classmates (i.e. taking turns), respect their teacher (i.e. listening, saying hello, thank you and goodbye), and have respect for their gym by putting away stuff after use and taking care of equipment.
Meaning: “Pure and without the knowledge. Like a tree, the seed must now be planted and nourished to develop strong roots.”
Level 2- Humility
As they progress the next lesson is about humility. Being proud of their new skills and accomplishments without boasting to others yet, learning how to praise others for their successes too.
Meaning: “The sun is beginning to rise. As with the morning’s dawn, only the beauty of the sunrise is seen rather than the immense power.”
Level 3- Perseverance
Skills start to get challenging and a lot of gymnasts start competing at this level. A lot of mistakes are made at entry level and the more they push through them, the stronger they become– teaching them hard work pays off.
Meaning: “The seed is beginning to see the sunlight.”
Level 4- Self-control
Learning to compete and controlling our emotions are a tough lesson to learn on level 4. They have been at it for a while and have to learn the importance of sports composure and sportsmanship amongst their peers.
Meaning: “The sapling is hidden amongst the taller trees and must now fight its way upward.”
Level 5- Honesty
The last level of compulsory, this level teaches us to be honest about ourselves and our commitment to the sport. It is in this level that is asked “is this the sport for me? am I ready to commit and work harder and do what it takes to work towards my goals? It only gets tougher from here, am I ready to push?
Meaning: “The tree is beginning to develop and grow in strength (physically and mentally).”
Level 6- Concentration
Starting optionals is exciting as it’s the beginning of the next half of the program. Skills, hours and focus are increased at this level. There is no goofing around, there is no cheating on conditioning, there is only focus on getting stronger, working harder and visualizing what they wish to become.
Meaning: “Coming to the mountain. The tree is in the mid-growth and now the path becomes steep.”
Level 7- Belief
At this level they have to reach a point that they finally let go of their insecurities and learn to believe and trust themselves. If they don’t believe in what they can do, they will never progress. “I can” and “I will” are frequent incantations that should be instilled at this level as skills are harder to achieve.
Meaning: “The tree reaches for the sky toward new heights.”
Level 8- Balance
Learning to balance the hours at the gym with home/family, friends and getting schoolwork done is challenging. Managing priorities are essential to keep the pace and an important life lesson to learn.
Meaning: “The tree is firmly rooted in the earth.”
Level 9- Conquer
There is no turning back, learning to conquer our fears and push without having to wonder “what if?” Learning how to become mentally tough is what this level beholds.
Meaning: “The dawn of a new day. The sun breaks through the darkness.”
Level 10- Love
Conquering level 10 and finding that you have faced your fears, believed and found trust in yourself, as well as found a love that only comes from finding your true passion and being committed to your dreams.
Meaning: “The tree has reached maturity and has overcome the darkness… it must now ‘plant seeds’ for the future.”
Elite- New Beginning
The journey to get here is the absorption of the 10 levels before as well as the sacrifice, hard work, and determination needed. This lands the athlete in the land of the future–either college bound, elite or on a totally new exciting adventure altogether. Getting to this level makes one a wise warrior who never gave up on their dream and can forever hold onto the meanings above and apply to all areas of their lives moving forward. For those who have passed through, just like the black belt in martial arts,
their journey has just begun…
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo
by: Jodi Brichta-Coyne
(This article was originally written here. Republished by permission from the author.)