I Feel Like I Am on Pins and Needles…

November 6th. 19 days after I had completed a black belt test; the test where I had earned my conditional first degree black belt.

November 6th. 8 days prior to the semi-annual Black Belt Extravaganza where I would finally receive my conditional first degree black belt.

8 short days from receiving the belt I had worked over three years to get. 8 days.

I woke up numb.

Not emotionally numb because I had just spent 13 weeks of working out 25 hours a week for 13 weeks and had to basically shut down my life to achieve my goal. Nope, that is not what I am talking about.

I woke up physically numb. My hands were tingling with the pins and needles sensation you get when you go numb from remaining in one place for too long. The bottom of my feet were, too. But the weirdest part of all of it was my core was numb, too. Starting at my upper abs spanning all the way down to the top of my knees, front and back. But this part wasn’t pins and needles numb. Oh, no. This was like I had just received an epidural-numb. If you have never had an epidural, here is an example of how it felt: if I scratched the skin on my stomach, I couldn’t feel the scratching on my skin, but the muscles below that area of the skin could feel the pressure of my fingers scratching.

Numb Graffiti

Hop aboard the Numb Train!

photo credit: via photopin (license)

I woke up wondering, “What in the ever-living hell is going on with my body?” It was bizarre.

So, I did what any educated individual with health insurance would do to get an accurate and immediate diagnosis. I made a doctor’s appointment. I went on WebMD.com.

After a thorough check-up search of my symptoms, my doctor WebMD came back with two possible diagnoses.

Option One: A pinched nerve. Okay, I can deal with that.

Option Two: Multiple Sclerosis. Uh, yeah, but no. Pinched nerve, it is!

After a few x-rays, my doctor decided that I potentially had just a pinched nerve, and we proceeded with treatment for a pinched nerve. That is, until the third appointment, when my doctor asked me to put my chin to my chest, and when I did, I jumped. It felt like an electronic shock went shooting through the top of my legs. When I told her why I jumped, she stepped back, put her hands in the air and said the four words I never wanted to hear:

“You need a neurologist.”

All I could do was drop my head. And feel the electric shocks shoot through my legs, again.


And here we go… Paragraph Break Today’s black belt characteristic I would like to highlight is integrity. Specifically, having the integrity to say what is right, to do what is right, and to expect everyone on your team to do what is right. No exceptions. Hmmm, I think I just discovered my next post topic. Stay tuned… integrity

Civilize the Mind, But Make Savage the Body…

So, the question was,

Did I make it into prep cycle?

The answer?

Of course I did, what else would have taken me so far away from my [insert here: blog, family, friends, free time, general enjoyment of life, etc…] for such a prolonged amount of time?

This is the beginning of a typical conversation I have with anyone who is curious about what exactly “prep cycle” is and how I got into and through it. Honestly, I just want to tell them what I really think of when I say “prep cycle” which is more along the lines of what a high-efficiency washing machine does, and not anything that has to do with taekwondo.

Alas, it is not related to a washing machine. It is taekwondo. It is physical tests. It is spirit runs and timed-mile runs. It is working out 20-25 hours per week. It is repeating the same form over and over and over again until a team of eight individuals performs it precisely, and as a perfectly formed solitary unit. It is sparring. It is late nights and early mornings that stretch into long afternoons. It is encouragement. It is pain. It is 13 weeks in length of incredibly hard work.

There were moments while training in those 13 weeks that I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “When this is all over, I am going to document everything I have experienced in my blog.” As I was living my weekly highs and lows through new milestones achieved and/or new personal challenges that were discovered and had to be overcome, I remember envisioning how I would structure my narrative about it. 13 blogs posts – one to describe each week of prep cycle. My thoughts about how I would tell my story were as harsh, hardcore and savage as my physical workouts were for my body.

This harsh, hardcore and savage mindset then began to eek from my physical workouts into my every day life. It had to. I was a married adult with a full-time job, raising two kids, who had committed herself to a process that demanded an additional 20-25 hours per week. In order to ensure everyone was where they needed to be, precise scheduling and multi-tasking became a must. Before I knew it, my family’s schedule had become harsh, hardcore and savage, and we had to be harsh, hardcore and savage to deal with it. A proverbial “fight fire with fire” situation.

During prep cycle, my husband and I would say to each other (almost daily), “When prep cycle is over, our schedules will slow down.” Prep cycle ended last October. What has our schedules been like since then?

Harsh. Hardcore. Savage.

It hasn’t changed in the slightest. The only thing that has changed? When we change the month in the following statement, “When [insert: month that 3 months from today] is over, our schedules will slow down.” My schedule has not changed for one reason. My mindset remains in harsh, hardcore and savage mode, and as long as it stays there, as does the rest of my life. It is time to let it go and find the calm and civilized me. And it needs to happen. Like, yesterday.

Civilize the mind but make savage the body.

Will I still workout like a savage? You bet, because I have finally found physical exercises that I truly love to do. But, as for my mind, my schedule and my free time? It is time to be civilized*.

Wish me luck. Lord knows I will need it. And booze, too…

*Please note, when I say “civilized,” that will absolutely not reflect anything that has to do with my use of foul language and/or consumption of wine and margaritas. Those, my friends, will always be done in an uncivilized manner.

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I am dedicating today’s black belt characteristic of integrity to my son, because he is in the process of learning a very hard lesson… there are times when you have to ignore the what others have done to “get by,” to realize you are better than just getting by, and to understand that true personal integrity comes from setting your own high standards and achieving them. A hard lesson at 9. Or even at 99…


A Dream Is…

It was about this time last year that my son and I had earned our high brown belts. High brown was the last belt before testing in to the dreaded “prep cycle.” Prep cycle is the term we use for the three months a person has to prepare for their black belt test. Three months of exhaustion. insane workouts. mental and physical strain. hell. I had heard the stories of the experiences of black belts past. I didn’t care. I had no doubt in my mind that earning my black belt in tae kwon do was my dream.

It felt as if I had said that no less than one thousand times. So often that the word had begun to lose meaning for me. So, as the ever-curious person would do, I looked it up in the dictionary (.com).

I read the first definition of “dream,”

a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.

and I was comforted because that was exactly how I viewed earning my black belt. An ambition. An ideal. Cherished. But then, I continued to read and discovered it also meant,

an unrealistic or self-deluding fantasy.

Crap. That wasn’t what I meant when I said the word “dream”! I meant in the best possible way! Something I would do! Accomplish! All of the amazing things the the first definition inferred. I was indignant, as if the dictionary (.com) people had written that definition directed just TO ME! I would prove them wrong, they would see!

As I sat there, I told myself I knew exactly how I would prove them wrong. I would… I would… ummmm… wait, how exactly would I prove the dictionary (.com) people wrong?

That is when I realized in order to achieve my dream, I needed to stop thinking of it as a dream. If I continued to use the word “dream,” I would have allowed the smallest percent of my thoughts to wonder if earning my black belt as unrealistic. I had to switch my mindset from “earning my black belt is my dream” to “earning my black belt will be a reality.” Without the switch, I was leaving the achievement of earning my black belt to chance. With the switch, it would then be a goal and I would need a plan to achieve it.She turned her can'ts into cans, and her dreams into plans

So, I sat there. I wrote down my plans, which turned into a practice schedule. I knew the test into “prep cycle” was 4 months away and that I knew I had to know my curriculum at a minimum of 90% proficiency. I knew I needed to build my stamina, endurance and mental fortitude. I knew I needed to practice it all. My written practice schedule worked on all of it.

Before I knew it, four months passed and I had worked hard so I could prove it to myself that I felt confident in my knowledge of the curriculum, and of my desire pass the prep cycle test. Was I nervous. Uh, hell, YES. Was I prepared? Did I pass? That is for next time…

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This evening, I am focused on the black belt characteristic of courtesy, because lately I have seen incredible displays of it and also a complete lack of it. Courtesy is one of those beautiful qualities that I think is the hardest to learn and maintain daily, but when it is done consistently, it is beautiful. Here is to its beauty…


An (Unintentional) Taste for Irony…

1, 241 days. Otherwise known as 3 years, 4 months and 22 days.

Or, how long it has been since I started this blogging adventure.

When I started blogging, I never knew it would be this difficult. When I started this blog, I felt like I always had something to say. However, to ensure I had plenty to speak of and about, I decided to be “smart” and not only blog about my karate experience, but also parenting and life. Hence, the “…and Beyond” added to the end of “To Black Belt…” in the title. I am also a huge fan of the Toy Story movies. I thought I was being “cute” in addition to “smart.”

In all actuality, I was naive on how difficult blogging is. Yes, simply spouting off an opinion is easy. That wasn’t why I wanted to blog. I wanted to tell a story that might just connect with someone. A story that resounds with someone. A story that says, “If you want to do something, you can. I know it because I did. It sucked and hurt, but it was so worth it.”

Because I did and it was. It still is. That is an adventure I have every intention of telling, because it is a good story. It may take me a bit to tell it in ingestible chucks, but I promise I will.

First, let’s rewind a bit further back. To 1,241 days ago. The day I named this blog, and thought I was being “smart” and “cute” by adding the “…and Beyond” to the title. Come to find out, dear audience, I was unknowingly being ironic. Dramatically ironic, because I never knew where the “…and Beyond” would lead me.

Irony is Easyphoto credit: Irony via photo pin (license)

I am on the path to finding out. I promise to share that too, and in the meantime, I beg you humor me with a bit of patience while I wind my way there, and expand my understanding of what my “…and Beyond” will become.

Until then, I leave you with a the black belt characteristic of indomitable spirit, because it is my favorite. It is also the black belt characteristic that I hope I can maintain the most in all that I encounter.

indomitable spirit

XO to you all. ~Jess


And I am BACK!

Hello Friends,

My apologies for my absence… I have been a bit busy with life, etc…

And rather than type for days about what has happened, I thought I would just do this instead:

It’s a slide show video of my progress from white belt to now. Check it out!

Also I am pleased to say that not only will I be blogging LOTS more about the next part of my journey to black belt and beyond, but guess who else started tae kwon do? Yep, Big Ben and Chloe! Don’t worry, there are pics to come (I promise)!

Thanks all for hanging tight and begin patient with me… I really appreciate it!



From Pastime to Passion…

Perfect practice make perfect...

Perfect practice make perfect…

photo credit: Iguanasan via photopin cc

We started because it seemed like it would be a fun activity. And it was.

We continued because we realized we really enjoyed learning how to execute different kinds of punches and kicks. We continued because we liked learning how to put all the punches and kicks together in a form. We continued because we met amazing people who showed us that pushing ourselves farther than we thought we could would result in the ability to say, “I have a black belt.”

We continued through adversity, knock-downs, injuries, the message of the month (ugh), testing nerves, and epic fails. We continued even though we watched friends (sadly) drop away. We continued even when we were warned that most people quit during the brown belt sequence, because it gets considerably “less fun.” We continued because we could not imagine that it could ever get “less fun” when you were so close to the goal.

Well, here we are. In the brown belt sequence. So close to the goal.

Guess what? It’s decidedly, “less fun.”

Does that mean we are quitting? The answer is a resounding, “no.” Here is the reason: for us, tae kwon do has grown from a pastime that we enjoyed doing a few times a week, to a passion. A passion that we cannot imagine our lives without. A passion that will require serious bodily damage before the word, “quit” will enter our vernacular. And only because a doctor tells us we have to.

Okay, that sounds crazy. Let me say this… “Yes, it is crazy.” One hundred percent. Unfortunately, our pastime became our passion when we weren’t looking. And when a pastime becomes a passion, the “crazy” becomes “whatever it takes to reach our goal.”

What will it take for us to reach our goal? Attending at least two curriculum classes a week. And at least one sparring class. And one leadership class. Oh, and now that we are brown-red belts, we also are expected to help our instructors two classes a week. All, in addition, to the voluntary review class we have every Sunday morning for two hours.

That also doesn’t include the practice at home.

Our at home practice schedule for the best month...

Our at home practice schedule for the next month…

That also is the tip of the iceberg. In six months, we test to get into prep cycle. Prep cycle is the three months prior to earning your black belt, and it is all the things listed above in addition to meeting every Friday night and Saturday day. All day.

You are thinking we are crazy.

We are.

Crazy in love this damn sport.

So friends and loved ones, please be patient with us while we are “absent.” I promise we will be back… stronger, happier, and with our goal proudly displayed around our waists…

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Today’s black belt characteristic I would like to display is perseverance because today, we got to watch so many students earn their next belts at the 5280 Karate Academy belt graduation. I saw students who got lost in a form, but keep on going, anyway. I saw students push themselves and do more push-ups than they have ever done before. I saw students support each other by cheering their fellow students on with, “You can do this.” And they did. It was a good day…