Our main goal at Tao of Texas Martial Arts is to build better character every day. Character development is hard work, but it can feel invigorating when we finally accomplish goals and overcome nagging issues.
Now I know how my students feel.
My Taekwondo students get so excited about a little strip of black electrical tape on their belt. In my class, I award black stripes to indicate strides in character development. These students work so hard on really tough issues and are thrilled when I wrap that one-inch stripe around their belt. The moment I snip my scissors and press the tape end to the belt, you might think I'd just delivered an empowering, chi-charged exclamation point. My students smile widely and deeply, and I am so proud of them.
Their efforts toward becoming better little people are so admirable that today they’ve inspired me to work on an issue that is challenging me to let go of old behavior and make better choices.
More specifically: To eat well.
Yes, today I humbly admit that I:
• Do not always give my body the nutritional things it needs to work at an optimum level
• Often succumb to eating what’s convenient instead of what’s healthful
• Hate to cook
• Crave fried foods and starches
• Usually give into my cravings
Martial artists are supposed to be the epitome of good health and fitness. We’re known for our strong bodies, clear minds, and serene spirits. So I’m pretty embarrassed to admit today that I often falter when it comes to putting healthful food in my body.
I have made progress. Almost 20 years ago, I quit drinking alcohol. Four years ago, I gave up sodas. Both were super duper hard to do, but now bearable—afterthoughts, in fact.
I’m hopeful that avoiding the Danish staring me in the face this morning and that fried chicken sandwich calling me for lunch will one day also just be something that passes under my nostrils and through my psyche—and keeps going.
At age 47, I can no longer afford to neglect my body by not giving it what it needs. After all, it works hard for me. My body has kept me active and healthy all this time, and energetic enough to chase after Tiny Texans and teach ADHD youths Taekwondo for 11 years.
But in the last four months, I’ve had three upper respiratory illnesses. My immune system is shot. It’s time—check that: overdue—for me to take steps to better care for myself.
On Monday, I started thinking about my little students and the black character stripes I award them, and I got an idea: I have a size 5 white belt in my gym bag. Why not use it to mark my own achievements in eating better?
Here's my character challenge: Every day I eat well, I’m giving myself a black character stripe.
“Will you take away a stripe every time you don’t eat well?” my partner Marianna asked last night.
“Oooh, that’s—a good point,” I replied. “Consequences; just like I have with my students. I guess I’ll have to.”
My plan is simple: fill that white belt with as many black stripes as possible in one month, and then take it to my Taekwondo classes and show it to my students—to let them know that I, too, have to work hard every day to become a better, healthier person.
On Monday, I received an acupuncture appointment to help boost my immune system. Yesterday I followed up with that by eating well—all day. This morning, I’m awarding myself my first black stripe! Woo-hoo!
Today I fill like a giddy little girl. Now I know how my students feel.