The Foreign Service Journal, June 2009

26 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 9 through a warm-up that left me gasping for air, then introduced a totally new set of stretching exer- cises that required holding awk- ward positions until my limbs ached. He corrected flaws in basic kicks I had been executing for years but was not doing “the black belt way.” This was a new world, he re- minded me, and I could see from his new intensity that he saw his job as pushing me to my limits. This is the point when many people drop out of martial arts, I’m told. By dropping out after the black belt test, you can brag about your achieve- ment without enduring the trials of the next, more serious stage. And as I squeeze in Taekwondo sessions around work and family commitments and once again recognize my physical limitations, I have to admit that another year of meeting Sylvan’s demands some- times strikes me as a bit insane. But as our routine takes a dra- matic shift into higher gear, I also find myself drawn to a deeper un- derstanding of the sport, to the physics of perfecting a technique, to the beauty of the roundhouse kick and cat stance, to the multiple intricacies that make Taekwondo so fascinating. I’ve begun to internalize that most Asian of insights: It’s not the destination that matters — it doesn’t even seem so im- portant when you get there —but the journey. And so, at least for now, I’ll continue Taekwondo—not for the fight- ing skills or some promised spiritual gain, but for the ex- ercise, and for the challenge of seeing whether I can do it and where it all leads. F O C U S When my two examiners asked what Taekwondo meant to me, I initially gave them a Foreign Service officer answer, marveling at the sport’s 2,000-year history.