Few people would have celebrated their fifth birthday the way I did: it was the very day (in July 1999) on which I started my KSW training. That was by no means my first time in the dojang, though, as I recall having been “made” to sit and watch classes for a whole year — while other members of my family got to train! — in order to develop my understanding of the values of KSW.
In the early days, I remember feeling very excited, yet somewhat anxious. Experiencing these emotions at such a young age has helped me as an instructor both to understand better the need to make newcomers feel welcome and at ease, and also to give them as much encouragement as possible. In fact, the most rewarding aspect of being a KSW instructor is seeing just how much students develop and change as their training progresses; the growth in self-confidence amongst the children, in particular, and their increasing awareness of their abilities are plain for all to see.
New students soon also become aware of the ethics, discipline and respect that KSW teaches, all of which reach far beyond the dojang: becoming less impulsive and aggressive and more self-controlled and self-aware, and working hard (with the right mental attitude) are amongst the many attributes that KSW promotes. Coupled with those, of course, are KSW’s physical benefits. The total-body nature of this traditional Korean martial art ensures improved stamina, muscle tone, flexibility and strength.
It’s true that learning KSW and constantly striving to improve forms and techniques can be challenging but, for me, this is what makes it so rewarding. You can spend literally years practising the same form, for example, but in the end there will still be tiny details that need to be improved upon. KSW’s extensive and diverse curriculum lends itself perfectly to motivating students to work hard as well as to set and achieve personal goals.
Although winning medals is always something to be proud of (I’ve won a handful over the years at various championships, mainly for sparring and forms), my most memorable moment in KSW is being promoted to 1st-degree Black Belt at the tender age of 11 — a childhood dream come true.