Confidence vs. Ability


I’ve trained in the martial art of Tang Soo Do for the past 13 years. After trying sports, dance, swimming, you name it, my mom mentioned Tang Soo Do to me. Both my brothers were martial artists, and I had ALWAYS wanted to do Tae Kwon Do with the brother in the middle of the 3 of us. My mom took me for my first class and I fell in love. I haven’t looked back since. I’ve stumbled, faltered, and flat out fallen on my face (literally and figuratively) along the way, but I’ve kept going.My Sah Bum Nim (that’s the Korean term for master…like “Sensei” for karate) always told me that when life started to get hard, I could always come back to my roots. All through high school, I would do that. I’d stop training for a few months and life would start to get the best of me. I’d go back to class and order would slowly be restored.

My Kwan Jang Nim (he’s the grand master – our head honcho) always says “you’ve got to have a Tang Soo attitude.” He always pushes us on being strong, confident, and humble. That’s what makes a good warrior. And we always have our Tang Soo Do family to help us. Sah Bum Nim often says, “Blood is thicker than water…but so is sweat.” It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s true. It’s amazing the relationships I’ve built with these people. To have SBN, someone who has known me since I was 11 years old in my life as a mentor is such a valuable asset. He calls me his adopted daughter because he’s literally watched me grow up. He’s met boyfriends, helped me through breakups, and seen me through a lot of rough times. And he’s never hesitated to yell at me or give me unsolicited advice…much like most parents haha.

So when I was supposed to be testing for my 3rd Dan (3rd degree) black belt in October, I was frustrated. A college degree had set me back several years behind schedule, and a car accident had set me back further. Now I was in grad school, trying to balance a full caseload, classes, summer social life, and training at least 2 (sometimes 3 or 4) nights a week. My training was inconsistent and I was struggling to learn all my new material, as well as recall, and in some cases, relearn, my old material in preparation for the test. Three days before the test, I was learning some last minute defenses. I was feeling shaky about all of my forms (I really did not know them as well as I should have – I couldn’t do them alone, I needed someone along side me who knew them) and I just truly didn’t think I was prepared enough for the test. I had a complete meltdown in class. The messy kind of crying where you’re sobbing and your chest is heaving and you just can’t breathe. Sah Bum Nim stood right in front of me while I cried and demanded I look him in the eyes. I was so embarrassed and frustrated, the last thing I wanted to do was to look my instructor in the eyes and have him see me so defeated. But he wouldn’t quit. So I looked up at him, and all he said was, “You’re having a crisis of confidence, not a crisis of ability.” For the rest of the night, whenever my tears would start up again, that was all he would say to me. We ended the night with him telling me that if I wasn’t ready he would tell me. And then he repeated “Crisis of confidence, not crisis of ability,” once more time. I passed my test. I didn’t do great, and it was definitely my worst one yet, but I did it.

Tonight he sent me a text to try and entice me to get back to class. I haven’t been in probably a month, between illness, school, and my migraines. So I told him that I’m really struggling with my life right now and I just need to get myself back in order before I can throw one more thing back on my plate. We sent some texts back and forth, a mix of sarcasm & lecturing from him, defeat & defiance from me, and dry humor from both of us. The last text he sent me said, “Just remember who you are and what you’re made of…the will of a Tang Soo Black Belt can shatter stars!”

I can always count on him to believe in me when the last thing I can do is believe in myself.

I will get through this week, and I know that. I’m just having a crisis of confidence.

Sah Bum Nim & Me, right after my test for 3rd Dan

Sah Bum Nim & Me, right after my test for 3rd Dan