…as if it needed to defend itself
I remember a conversation with Kevin and Katey Deasy in Huntsville, AL where they were extolling the positive impact of martial arts on their sons. I took that back with me to Togo and mused about the reality of having four very strong and physical sons, but I had no idea how to proceed.
When we’ve been flummoxed in such ways while serving in Africa, we prayed. So, on a day as I was driving through Lome, Togo in February of 2004, I prayed that somehow God would help me find a master to teach my sons the martial art of Taekwondo. I looked down the road within thirty seconds, truly, of finishing the prayer and saw a huge sign just off the road for Taekwondo. I stopped by and had a discussion with the owner of the Dojang and within thirty minutes we had a plan for a master to come to Tabligbo, an hour away, on Tuesdays and Thursdays and teach my sons and myself, of course, I can’t let them have all the fun, along with anyone else interested.
You see, I had been a boy many years prior, and found myself testing the limits of my strength in sports, but that didn’t seem enough for me. In junior high we humored ourselves by arranging fights for ourselves after school, of the bare knuckle variety, to give additional proof that we were stronger and tougher than the average Joe, not GI Joe mind you, just the average one. I didn’t want that for my sons, to fight that is. Yes, you are beginning to smile at the irony. “Teach your kids how to fight so then they won’t fight?” you ask sardonically.
In reality, most martial arts are not about fighting, but instead about defending, and violence, particularly against those who are vulnerable is not tolerated. My sons had the same question I had as a young man. They asked themselves continually, “Am I strong?” And, they sought to prove it. Also. we didn’t want them fighting each other, so, as we began Taekwondo, I warned them that now they were trained martial artists and soon to be masters and they were now very dangerous people and capable of inflicting great harm on others if they used their learning inappropriately. Smile. Yes, some weeks later I heard my third one goading the first born physically and witnessed my first born explain to him in no uncertain terms that he would not hit him as he wanted. He proclaimed, “I am now a yellow belt, and I will not hit you, because my punch could possibly kill you. I am too disciplined for that.” Yep, it had worked!
You see, Taekwondo is based on five tenets of Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and an Indomitable Spirit. All of which interestingly enough you can find scriptures to support in the Bible. It has had an amazing impact on my sons and ultimately myself. They grew up and were required by myself to compete internationally. You should have seen the African boys looking forward to taking out on my sons all the ills of African Colonialism; yes it took them a bit of courage to take the mat. As well they had to stay in until they completed their second degree black belt as there is such a difference in maturity between the first degree and second.
This courage and inner strength empowered them to not react violently to not only each other, but more importantly to the many aggressive people that asserted themselves against them during our twenty years in Africa as well as to not be fearful for themselves. If you know any of them, they have not suffered from that, but have walked with great self assurance and held their heads high.
I am thankful, looking back retrospectively, to God, for giving us the art and sport of Taekwondo and I had no idea that after our time in Togo it would come to have such an impact on not only our lives but the entire country of Rwanda and even advance the sport for Africa as well.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds then you can test and approve what God’s will is; his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
I can attest that not only God’s Will is good, pleasing and perfect, but that bizarrely it was His Will that we did Taekwondo.
More on that in the next post.