Several years ago I was at my wits end trying to motivate my son to get his act together in life. A friend recommended I get him started in the martial arts. I encouraged my son to look into it, but he had a bunch of excuses. “If the guys at school found out I was learning karate, they’d pick on me to try to get me to use it before I knew enough to defend myself.” That sounded like a reasonable objection. “If I do anything, I want to learn judo, but I’ll pick the studio myself.” Fine. At nearly seventeen years old, there wasn’t much I could do to make him take lessons he didn’t want to take. And as a result, two more years went by without any martial arts in our lives.
Almost exactly a year ago, another friend posted a status on facebook about a charity event he was doing through his taekwondo school called a “board-break-a-thon.” He was asking for donations to go to the MACC fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer), and promised that for a $5 donation he would write someone’s name on a board before he broke it. I liked that. Visions of his foot going through my ex-husband’s name made me very happy.
But I never got my money to him, so on the morning of the event I asked him if I could bring my money down to the mall and give it to him in person. He told me I should come down and break a board of my own. I thought he was crazy. But I showed up anyway, and timidly moved through the crowd trying not to be noticed. I worried I might be picked out and recruited to break a board in front of all those people, and then to sign up for a commitment I wasn’t ready to make.
But me being me, I eventually stepped forward and asked to break a board, as long as I could do it off to the side, privately. “Of course! Of course. Here, come over here, how about this. We can do it here.” They led me to an area on the side. A man held out a thin little piece of pine with the image of a bare foot stamped on it and proceeded to instruct me in the proper way to break it. I almost laughed at the whole thing. It was obvious that I would successfully break that board, and then they would want to sign me up for classes. I was on to their game.
Except that they were so nice, and caring, and personable, and real. And breaking that board felt … so … good. I grinned from ear to ear. It wasn’t hard to do, but it felt wonderful.
But then nobody offered me classes. I felt a little disappointed, neglected, almost. So I went up to a table and asked, and got a coupon for two weeks of classes free.
And I went.
And I loved it.
After my first class, I actually felt my balance shift lower in my body. I went to my Irish dancing class that evening and did my drills better than I had the entire year previous. Taekwondo felt like a life-changing exercise that would do more overall good for the time spent than any of the other exercises I was doing, whether at the gym, or Irish dancing, or tennis lessons, archery or 5k walking.
I signed up, and practiced for about eight months before my son took any interest in joining me. He came, and loved it, too. He soon made a new friend from class. The two of them inspired each other to break away from the video games and get jobs. My son started a tough sales job in a direct marketing firm selling cutlery. He was so successful, no doubt greatly due to the confidence and discipline that he was learning in taekwondo, that he got promoted twice and earned a trip to Puerto Vallarta. He just came home from Mexico yesterday a changed young man, with a brand new worldview and a greater appreciation for other cultures and for working hard.
I have a bit more muscle definition from the tough workouts I’m getting, and am finally beginning to see a little weight loss. I purchased a set of knives from my son that are the best quality knives I’ve ever owned. They were expensive and are really fun to use, so I’m using them as much as I can, which means I’m preparing whole, fresh foods much more than I’ve ever been in the habit of doing, which is helping with the weight loss and with better nutrition.
I am looking better because I’m eating better, which I’m doing because I’m cooking better foods at home, which I began to do because my son is selling knives, which he is doing because he got a great job, which he got because of the encouragement of a new friend he met at taekwondo, which he’s practicing because I am practicing, which I’m practicing because a friend invited me to come kick a board against childhood cancer.
Where can the butterfly effect lead you?