How I punched my way through Tech

Traditionally, a swan song is an editor’s last op-ed. This would be mine; I’m graduating and heading off to law school. Also traditional is the idea that I, the wise and seasoned editor, ought to impart some piece of wisdom, usually academic advice. The problem is, students at Tech are constantly inundated with academic advice. Academics are kind of our forte. So I’d like to talk about the other half of my life at Tech—the part that kept me sane when all of my classes conspired to drive me crazy. That would be martial arts. My advice would be this: Try martial arts.

I’ve studied a handful of martial arts, but I focus on hapkido, a Korean generalist art. I started it at Tech, and I tested to black belt just last month. The difference it made in my life has been profound, and not just on a physical level. Yes, hapkido keeps me fit and yes, it has taught me certain self-defense skills. The thing is, martial arts aren’t just about getting faster and stronger and learning how to fight. There’s a lot of mental development involved and quite a bit of emotional stuff as well.

To earn a black belt, just showing up at class isn’t enough. No matter how athletic you are, no matter how good you are at getting your body to do that crazy thing the instructor just demonstrated, there will be a point at which you just aren’t good enough. What hapkido helped me learn is how to change that and how to accept that the process may take years.

My best example is wrestling. I am small—for a woman. That means that I am tiny compared to most people I train with, and size makes a big difference in wrestling. I detested it when I started hapkido. I was really bad at it. So I made myself train, even though wrestling made me feel weak and clumsy. I’m much better at wrestling now—and I enjoy it. In fact, wrestling is my favorite part of hapkido. The same process has repeated itself with a handful of other things. What martial arts help you learn is how to turn a weakness into a strength. That is a real life skill.

Martial arts is so much more than even that, though. Through hapkido, I have made friends I would probably never have met elsewhere. I have found role models. I have picked up a few really effective stress-relief techniques (hitting things really does work!). I have developed my confidence. That certainly helps in academics: the LSAT couldn’t scare me after some of the tests the black belts put me through.

With all of these potential benefits, why wouldn’t you try out a martial art? The CRC offers a good selection for prices you won’t find in the real world. And don’t be put off if you’re small, or unathletic or afraid of pain. Pain tolerance and athleticism are things you can develop. As for size, it may be an obstacle but it is definitely surmountable.

Finally, I believe that martial arts will help you academically. It helps you develop perseverance and problem-solving skills that are, shall we say, unique.

It isn’t healthy to consume yourself with academics, and unfortunately, at Tech that can be too easy. So turn off your computer and go learn how to punch something.