When I was a little belt, I was intimidated by all the bigger belts.  To put it in perspective, I was easily intimidated as a little belt, but, damn, those big belts were good.  I would watch them in their classes and wonder if I would ever be able to do those things.  (Answer: yes.  eventually.  with a lot of hard work).

These days, when I take a class, I give 110%.  I’m not always the most athletic, and sometimes it takes me more practice than other students to learn a skill, but I always try.  I try for a lot of reasons – it’s the only way to get better, I’m paying for this and want to take it seriously, I really love taekwondo and want to be the best taekwondo person that I can be.  I also try hard because, when I was a little belt, there were some big belts that I saw trying really hard, and I wanted to be like them.

One of those big belt students was in the class after mine.  When my class was over, I would sit and drink my Gatorade (and try not to pass out) while the class after mine would start.  That class was predominantly male, but there was this one chick who attended.  She was super bad ass and was always, always, always pushing herself.  I want to be like her, I’d think while I watched.  Of course, I’d never actually voice those thoughts, because I was a little belt and was intimidated by everything.  But I did try to push myself because I saw how that student pushed herself to get better, and I thought that, perhaps, if I pushed myself then I might someday be able to be bad ass, too.

And then one day, when I was a blue belt, I was filing out of my class and the class behind us was coming in, when the aforementioned bad ass student stopped me and complimented me on my effort.  I did not even realize the bigger belts knew we existed (let alone big belts in other martial arts disciplines).  I mumbled one of those awkward thank yous and then sort of shuffled out of the class, but I beamed all the way home.  It’s awesome to littler belts when the bigger belts compliment them, and I was just floored that one of the best students in the school thought something I did was worth stopping me and complimenting me on.  And I tried even harder.  By the time I was testing for my bodon belt, I was training five days a week.  And you know what?  I did get better – and I’ll receive my black belt in two days.

Why am I telling this story?  Three reasons:

First – to those of you who are not white belts and are reading this entry – look out for the belts who are littler than you.  You set an example for them.  Be the sort of role model you’d want to have.  Also, remember that your encouragement can help them succeed.  Not to go all Sasha Belov on you, but remember that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

Second – to any white belts who stumble upon this entry – choose to learn from those who have been where you are now.  Emulate their good habits, because that will help you succeed.

Finally – I’ve found that sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest differences, but we often don’t ever learn how that small thing we did had a huge impact to someone else.  I seriously doubt Sherry knew how much she helped inspire me to be better.  I wanted to share this to say thank you to her as she tests for her third black belt this weekend.  (She’s totally going to kill it).