I've mentioned several times before that I have two kick-ass taekwondo instructors whom I really admire: one a tiny Indian woman strong enough to carry large Caucasian me across the room on her back; the other a mightily fierce (and only slightly less tiny) be-hijabed Egyptian Muslim who can drop me like a bad habit.
I admire many of my classmates as well--as a group, they are highly dedicated and proficient. But my newest classmate is a hero in my eyes simply for showing up to class.
You see, he's a proud Vietnam vet. He'll tell you all about his service if you ask. I have no idea how old he is, but if he was 20 in 1970, he'd be 63 now. My best guess looking at him is that he's older than 63. The average age in the morning classes is probably 40, and most of these women (it's almost all women) are very physically active in other ways as well. To put it mildly, he sticks out from the usual class demographic.
He came to his first class probably a month ago. It was a particularly tough one: he hung in gamely for a good while, but ended up leaving halfway through. This not being a hobby that the average septuagenarian-ish person takes up for the first time, I never expected to see him again.
Tuesday, he was back. Apparently whatever had been bothering him physically the first time was feeling better, and he got all the way through class. Not perfectly by any means, but he hung in there. And he attended class again today, this time wearing a gi. That was a big deal.
People are permitted to try the class (in regular exercise clothing) to see if they like it before purchasing the white uniform. Once they decide to commit, they buy their gi jacket and pants, and the instructor bestows their white belt in a brief ceremony at the beginning of class. The fact that he had a gi on means that he's officially decided to stick around.
He certainly has some challenges ahead. Some of the moves will be tough for him. He'll be hard put to keep up with some of the endurance work. And he's hard of hearing, which means that the instructors will have to work on projecting their voices more, since the lower belts traditionally stand to the back of the class.
But God bless the man, he's doing his best. That's all the instructors ask of any of us. And he's sure got guts--he's facing this challenge head-on.
Joe, my hat's off to you. Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
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