At my Tae Kwon Do class this past week, the instructor asked each of us to demonstrate our poomse individually for the rest of the class. Tae Kwon Do poomse consist of a series of increasingly complicated movements and forms for each belt level. They involve various kicks, punches, blocks, steps, and spins. Each person in class was asked to demonstrate the form that she or he was working on currently, and then peers were asked to give a critique. I volunteered to go first, despite feeling nervous about the several black belts and others who would be critiquing the precision and accuracy of each of my kicks, blocks, and punches. I completed my individual demonstration, and then I stood there, awaiting the critiques from my peers and attending to the self-critique that had begun internally. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for feedback. One of the black belts spoke first. He said that I needed to focus, that I was looking around and seemed to be thinking about what was coming next instead of looking straight ahead and concentrating on the move that I was doing in the moment.
I’m thankful for his insight, and it is remarkable how his critique applies to my life in general right now. I am looking ahead, wondering what the next chapter holds. I experience anxiety in the uncertainty that comes with those questions. So my need right now is to be present, to fully and confidently stand in my current form, rather than rushing into the next form prematurely or being so preoccupied with what is coming that I miss, rush through, or fail to fully snap confidently into the stance I hold in the present moment. There is a series of forms that will unfold, but I have to trust my memory of what has gone before, and my knowledge that something good lies ahead, fixing my gaze straight forward and being careful not to lose focus.
For me as for many, there is a spiritual element to the practice of Tae Kwon Do. For me, truly focusing means slowing down long enough for prayer, taking time to be still, and striving to deepen my relationship with God and let God’s love flow through me into the lives of others.
I hope that as I continue to practice my poomse for my next belt test, I will strike the powerful balance between movement and stillness, between transition from the past into the present, and the present into the future, never losing focus.