The combination of consistency, discipline and perseverance was key here. This was not for the faint hearted. Like almost any positive pursuit in life, it was incredibly challenging. But, in return, it was perhaps one of my greatest achievements in beating a condition that had blighted my childhood.
My father was a heavy chain smoker. He was definitely inconsiderate in smoking around his kids, but nevertheless, he did. I have vivid memories of the distinct smell of smoke and cigarettes in our small Paris apartment. The lingering presence of tobacco residue on my fathers face was also prevalent. That meant, through passive smoking, I was diagnosed with Asthma at the age of 9.
There is nothing worse, than the feeling of your breathing being restricted. At times, it felt like I was taking my last breaths. Every breath was laboured and precious. And this is why, when I talk with my friends about the best inventions of our time, I say, the inhaler.
Having said this, my reliance on a Salbutamol Inhaler became non existent, when I accidentally stumbled across a Martial Arts club at the age of 14.
There were 2 reasons why I ended up practising TaeKwonDo.
2. To pursue a childhood dream of being able to move like Jackie Chan and kick like Jean Claude Van Damme.
There was no intention to become fitter or healthier, mainly because I was naive to the physical and mental benefits of practising Martial Arts.
For the first 3 months, I eased in to a new way of exercising. Prolonged stretching sessions, cardiovascular warm ups, training our stances, strikes, patterns and sparring. It is important to note that during this period, I was constantly having to use my inhaler due to wheezing.
Before any activity, we would all warm up by having to run multiple laps around the Dojo. And for me, this was hell. I was always the last one in line, and I was over lapped many times.
My Master always said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”. In my Martial Arts journey, I remember numerous occasions of pain, discomfort and demoralisation. Anything from slowing the team down by throwing slow kicks, to getting beat up in sparring. There were many moments of hardship.
However, it was in those moments, that I learnt about my capacity to push through physical and mental barriers. The truth is, those seconds where you feel you cannot go any further, always pass. That is all they are. Seconds. And once you withstand the temptations to give up, you will inevitably learn that you were always able to push past your limits.
Each lesson, I would aim to go one better than the session before. If I threw 100 kicks in 1 session, the next I’d aim for 150. If I got caught out in sparring, I’d go back and fix the issue the week after.
And I did the same with running. No matter how many times I was getting overlapped, or how many times I’d have to stop to take a puff from the inhaler, I would always be on the move.
We were always told there were no shortcuts to a Black Belt. Just like there are no shortcuts to success in life. To attain excellence, we had to persevere through the most turbulent times.
Through Perseverance in Martial Arts, comes a form of Discipline. I was training once a week amongst some of the finest Martial Artists I had seen. They are, to this day, still some of the finest warriors.
However it wasn’t enough. If I wanted to stand toe to toe (no pun intended) with my fellow colleagues, I had to dedicate and commit more to the Art. I increased the number of sessions per week and this was the beginning of the end for my Asthma.
From the multiple sessions a week I was attending, I had built some thick skin. My mind was fortified and my will, somewhat indestructible. Without me knowing, I had disciplined myself to think and move like a Martial Artist. My body became more flexible, but most importantly, my lungs had opened up like never before.
As the great Denzel Washington once said,
“Without commitment, you’ll never start, but more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish.”
The combination and accumulation of running, stretching and breathing was pivotal for me in beating Asthma. I couldn’t do all of those overnight. Nor could I have done it in 3 months. It was a gradual and arduous process. But, through perseverance and discipline, I built consistency.
I prioritised training more than my school work. As a teenager, it was a great release for me, and the life lessons I learnt in Class, I will never forget.
Eventually, I learnt that Martial Arts was rooted in competing against yourself. You are the competitor and the opposition. Asthma was hindering my progress as a young teenager, and when I stumbled across TaeKwonDo, I worked to eradicate it. And I did.