One of the many reasons that I look forward to this retreat so much is because of all the fond memories I have of past retreats. In particular, one of the most memorable retreats was the one that I first attended. This is probably because everything was so new to me and I vividly felt as if I had been deeply submersed into a mysterious and wondrous martial arts world.
It was the winter of 2004. I was sixteen years old and had just earned my 1st Dan that past summer. The previous year had been a big one for my involvement in Taekwondo. In order to make that huge push to get my first Dan, I had to reaffirm to myself my personal commitment to Taekwondo. I was ready to take my practice to the next level, and I knew that going to the Black Belt Retreat would be a great way to do just that. Little did I know just what all would be in store for me.
The opening ceremony on the first night definitely set the stage. I’m not even sure how to describe what the opening ceremony is like to someone who hasn’t seen it before. On the surface, it may seem somewhat simple, but when it is executed with the proper gravity (which it always is) then there is something almost indescribable about it. All I can say is that you’ll understand when you go.
Prior to my first blackbelt retreat, I had never meditated before, nor did I really know what meditation was. The theme of the 2004 retreat was Do Meditation, so I learned a lot about what meditation was, and I have continued to learn about meditation at the other retreats since meditative practices are part of every retreat just like they are part of every martial art. I cannot imagine living my life now without having access to the practices and knowledge of meditation that I learned at the blackbelt retreats I have gone to.
Along with the mental stuff we were learning, Master Pearson also led us through some rare martial arts techniques from a little known Japanese martial art called Hojo-jutsu. Hojo-jutsu is all about using a rope defensively. It was something that I had never seen before and was one the first harkenings I encountered that alluded to a martial arts world far vaster than I had previously imagined.
In addition to being an incredible learning experience, my first blackbelt retreat (and all the other ones I have gone to since then) was a real bonding experience with the other participants. You grow much closer to people who you train intensively with. As one can see by the posted schedule, it’s not uncommon for one at a retreat to be up from 4 AM until quite late at night. It’s intense, but it’s also a lot of fun, and everyone else is sharing in that awesome experience with you from the get go, and that’s what brings everyone together.
I could go on and on about how great that and all the other retreats were, but you really won’t understand until you go to one. If you haven’t signed up for this year’s coming retreat yet, there’s still time to do so. You’ll learn a lot, build stronger relationships with others, and come back a different person than who you were before.
I’ll see you there!