Dear Middle Aged White Belt: An Open Letter

I see you there, as I look over my shoulder from the middle of the class to where you stand in the back row.

One of only a few without a dobok and the only adult among all those kids.

I know. You wish the floor would mercifully open up and swallow your giant self, whole.

Right now you’re thinking this, being here, trying something new like Taekwondo, was a mistake.

I know. Because not so long ago at all, I stood where you are right now, thinking the very same thing.

Just pause. Breeeeeeathe.

There is magic ahead. I promise.

If I could whisper in your ear from way over here, I would say the first thing you need to do is change that negative talk willing you to make like the Runaway Bride and get out of here.

Instead, Celebate.

Yes I said CELEBRATE! Afterall, you made it here, to that spot where you stand.

That means you’ve already overcome the very biggest obstacle you will face on your journey towards Black Belt. You started.

This is your moment of starting.

Countless people dream of taking up martial arts. Of becoming a Black Belt.

But their dreams stay dreams. Some have significant health or physical reasons that prevent them from working towards that particular dream.

Others can’t access the training for financial or even geographic reasons.

And for others it’s simple, but insurmountable fear. Celebrate because that’s not you and here you are, being a beginner.

If you’re anything like me, before I started Taekwondo, it had been (ok, let’s just call it) a while since I had been a beginner at something.

As adults, we don’t seem to create opportunities to challenge ourselves like that as much as we used to.

Life is busy and it just seems easier to stay on top of it all by operating out of your comfort zone.

So, if it has been a while since you were a beginner, here’s what you need to know.

You don’t know anything, at all, about this yet.

Knowing that though, even embracing it, makes you smart. It keeps you humble. And: It keeps you from being one of those annoying know-it-all type beginners who thinks and acts like being a beginner is somehow beneath them.

That kind of beginner has more to learn that anyone.

Martial arts promotes the kind of respect and customs you don’t generally see so much of these days in everyday life.

Here you’ll bow to your superior, and yes, even if they’re half your age.

The wonderful thing about that is here, at Taekwondo training, your age is really just a number.

Nobody cares. Sure, you’re old enough to be her mum but you will bow to her because you respect her experience and her rank which, in this environment, faaaaaarrrrrr outweighs yours.

She’ll bow in return because she respects you also, as a student of the martial arts.

So you need not worry. Your instructors don’t hate you. They are here because they are passionate about passing on their knowledge to others.

For the most part, martial arts instructors aren’t drawn to their profession by dancing dollar signs.

They teach martial arts because they have passion and purpose.

And what might REALLY surprise you, is that the really good instructors consider themselves beginners in a sense too.

Sifu Michael S Fuchs puts it like this:

“We’re all beginners in the art…keep travelling the circle till you come through the other side and transcend it, then do it again, and again, and again! Till you become the formless form…until then keep the utmost sincerity and respect in your heart and mind, and express it with your words and actions.”

So White Belt, when the drills start, try not to get too frustrated with yourself. All dreams have to start at the beginning.

Pretty often these days (thanks to things like slick marketing and social media) we only ever get to see the end product, not the process or the journey. In martial arts, the journey is so important. Don’t try to rush through it or wish it was over.

Remember, Black Belt is not the destination, merely the beginning of a new journey.

Your journey will take time. It will take perseverance and commitment.

But here’s the thing. Very soon you will uncover a drive and determination you never knew was there.

Tiny, incremental little improvements will fan the flames of a new-found passion and before you know it, you’re journey is rolling. You have momentum baby and you’re on your way towards your dream. One kick at a time.

So here and now at the beginning…don’t forget to breeeeeeeathe.

A Black Belt is just a White Belt like you who never gave up.

Love Kristy x

PS. Please let me know in the comments below about your White Belt experiences, whether recent or from some time ago.

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  1. Tor Reply

    I recently started TKD at 40, inspired by my daughter of 8 who came home from each practice with a huge grinning smile on her face chock full of enthusiasm over what she’d learnt. Aching joints and wheezing breath aside, I’m having a great time! My son of 11 recently expressed a cautions interest to join, but was reluctant at the same time. He’s quite cerebral and a little anxious about new stuff. I talked him through the points in this post and it seemed to resonate with him. He decided he’s coming with us to practice this thursday! I’m really proud he let his curiosity overcome his fear and I hope he can settle into this great art.

    Thank you! Love your blog! Keep writing! 🙂

    • Kristy Reply

      Hey Tor! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I absolutely love hearing from parents inspired to jump into training by their kids. I believe it’s one of the best things I’ve done, not only for myself, but as a parent. How wonderful to hear that my article resonated with your son as well. Thank you for the feedback and encouragement.

      • Tor Reply


        So my son had his first practice last week. He was nervous, but resolved to give it his best. He made an agreement to line up behind his sister so he could take his cues off of her, and that worked great. I was watching through the window and I caught them exchanging glances and her giving him small nudges for posture and attention, which was just lovely to see.

        The sabomnim is a 1. dan, she is in her mid 20s, very focused, strict, but friendly and very good with the kids, getting the group to focus, sensing when someone is struggling and picking them up.

        My son came out starry eyed and smiling and was super eager to share everything he had learnt. He was especially proud that he had got the etiquette right with bowing on his way in and out of the dojang and before doing exercises with a partner. He even went up to the instructor and senior student, bowed and thanked them after practice, which is very unlike him! When I asked if he wanted to try it again he was 100% affirmative he wanted to continue. He’s tried a handful of other activities, and his response has usually been along the lines of “it was *okay*…”, so this was something completely new! I’m a little overwhelmed, to be honest.

        Thank you again for the post and your thoughts that helped me convince him! This seems like the start of a beautiful journey! 🙂

        • Kristy Reply

          A million thanks Tor for letting us know how your son went with his first Taekwondo class. I too am overwhelmed to hear how well it went and wish you and your family all the very best on what most definitely does sound like a the beginning of a beautiful bonding journey. 🙂

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