Home » BJJ » Martial Arts and Method “Acting”: Journey to a Black Belt (Part 1)

Martial Arts and Method “Acting”: Journey to a Black Belt (Part 1)



It’s amazing how opportunities present themselves.

Sometimes, connecting the dots of instances that happen in our lives is difficult to understand. Eventually, hints are left here and there, like scattered breadcrumbs, leading us to exciting ends.

For me, the first breadcrumb that lead me to being invited to script and co-create graphic novel “Blades of Hope” was signing up for a six week “Ultimate Self Defense Class” at a local martial arts school (Insert Olson’s Martial Arts Shout Out here).

I always wanted to get out there and try something like martial arts but my introverted self and dedication to others kept me in the shadows as I watched others train.

But one day, long story short,  I said, “Screw it!” and dove right in…to the parking lot…of the dojang…where I sat for twenty minutes in my car, contemplating whether or not to go in.

Wait…actually…no…I’m lying. I didn’t sit in the parking lot for twenty minutes. I circled the parking…twice…before I decided to park and then I sat there for twenty minutes. As a matter of fact, if I didn’t invite an old friend of mine to join me (Insert Shout Out to Angela here) I’m not sure I would have ever gotten out of my car to venture through the front door to begin with.

But my friend showed up and so did I.

When I walked through the door I was incredibly relieved to find other women taking the class, feeling just as awkward I as was, or so I like to think.

In my defense, it had been years since I had really done anything remotely active, aside from my stints of sitting in a gym parking lot with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in one hand and a muffin in the other, again debating whether or not to go in. So the fact that I committed to a six week, twice a week “Ultimate” Self Defense Class was quite a big step for me, especially, since the class’s advertisement read something to the effect of “You will leave class sweaty” (Which might I add was humorously accurate).

Thankfully, the class started off slowly but in no time we were punching and kicking bags and targets like nobody’s business. And each time I went to the class, the butterflies in my stomach turned from ones of nervousness to ones of excitement.

It wasn’t until the last week that the class’s true crescendo hit. Two instructors waltzed in and offered up the chance to elbow and knee strike them as hard as we could for a couple of minutes. This offer, terrifying me since I had never hit anyone in my life, sent me running to the back of the line in hopes of ducking out the back door at any chance I could get.

Unfortunately, I made no escape.  

My name was called and like a switch was hit an exhilarated beast, that apparently had been hiding within me, was unleashed and within those two minutes, I was able to tap into a version of myself that I never quite knew I had.

In those two minutes,  I hit my “targets” as hard and as fast as I could.

In those two minutes,  I unloaded years of passiveness.

In those two minutes, I released years of physical and mental stress.

In those two minutes, I felt great!

It wasn’t until one of the instructors, a Master of Taekwondo, hunched over from my knee strikes to the chest started laughing, that I realized that I should probably stop.

I’ll shamelessly admit, finding out that I had knocked the wind out of the instructor was not only amusing, it was satisfying.

So when we were asked if anyone else would like to have one more go at it, my hand went quickly up, albeit a different instructor but equally as entertaining. And I’m not embarrassed to say I even went a third round.

I had such a fantastic six weeks and was sad when it was over.

But it didn’t end there.

We were all invited to try out a real Taekwondo class. I was incredibly hesitant, for several reasons.

Reasons included but were not limited to:

I wasn’t a fan of wearing uniforms.

I wasn’t crazy about performing any martial arts forms.

Sparring just wasn’t my thing.

And performing what little skills I had, in front of an audience, during color belt graduations was a total nightmare.

And yet the following day there I was… awkwardly…in my very stiff, stark white, Taekwondo gi complete with white belt standing next to my friend in our first class.

I’m still not sure how it all happened. I never thought in a million years that I’d be training in any form of martial arts just like I never thought I’d be loving it.

Then entered breadcrumb number two.

Coincidentally, in my first month of taking Taekwondo, I was approached to write graphic novel “Blades of Hope” with strong female characters skilled in martial arts.

I’ve always agreed with the philosophy of “write what you know” and the timing of taking Taekwondo and being asked to incorporate it into my script could not have been any better.

So, in the past eight months, not only have I completed my first real graphic novel script, I recently graduated to an Advanced Green Belt in Taekwondo.

Thus far, the journey has been amazing. My confidence has grown in both martial arts training and in my writing as has my skill in both. And because of the fantastic and passionate instructors, I have been able to understand both the art and practice of martial arts in a way that only helps my storytelling and writing.

In addition, I fortunately had the opportunity to sit down with a 5th degree black belt in Taekwondo and instructor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Insert Shout Out to Keith Olson here) who graciously helped me tap into the many forms of martial arts, not only in practice but in the connection and emotions that come with true martial artists adding yet another level of breadcrumbs to my journey.

Life is full of vessels of surprises and vistas of opportunities. We just have to decide whether or not to dive in or walk away after a short taste on the perimeter.

My journey to a black belt coincides not only with me personally but the journey of my story and the journeys of my characters.

Like me, my characters are working on their personal growth, physically, mentally and emotionally. They are working on their strengths and their weaknesses. They are looking for solutions to conflicts. They are working on their patience, their anger and everything in between.

But most of all, like all of us, they are looking to find and maintain hope.

(“Blades of Hope” will be released in 2014).

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