In October 1995, I tested for my first degree (dan) black belt in Tae Kwon Do. The final requirement at the end of the test is breaking. I had to choose between two stacked boards or a concrete slab to be broken with a hammer fist.

I watched the first line of people attempt their breaks. Many who attempted the slab failed, even a lot of the guys. Here’s a little tip, if you don’t break concrete on your first attempt, don’t try again, waste of time. Your body knows what’s coming and you will subconsciously hold back to prevent further pain. It’s not going to break.

Most students who didn’t break, finished with their feet, and their teachers were down doing pushups. See, the student should not be presented for testing by the teacher if they’re not ready. It’s on the teacher if they fail, so they are the ones doing the pushups. Just how it works in martial arts.

My teacher appeared before me. He indicated the slab or the two boards. I knew what would be easier. I had successfully broken two stacked boards with a hammer fist before. He knew this. I’d never broken the slab, but I wanted it. Call me crazy, but I nodded to the slab. I know by this point, he was tired of doing pushups, but without a word, he set it up for me.

I lined up to the slab and stared it down. All I could think about was how that slab was between my black belt and me. I didn’t think about technique. That was already ingrained through many years of training. Inside of all of us, whether we know it or not, is a power we rarely, if ever, tap into. That day, I found it. When it was time, I went through that slab of concrete like a knife through butter. It was easy.

In fact it was so easy, at first I couldn’t believe it. But there it was, in two pieces. And there was my teacher, his face broken into a huge smile. I’d done it. No more pushups today!

I still have that slab. The two pieces fitted back together and displayed on top of a bookcase. For a long time now, I forgot about that secret power I have inside. The power we all have. I’ve allowed life to beat me down and I’ve doubted my ability to use my power.

This morning, I woke up dreaming about breaking that slab and how it felt. I think it was a message. I’m taking my power back. I’m going to believe in myself again. I’m going to demolish the obstacles standing in my way. I’m going to make it happen. How about you?

“Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.” – Bruce Lee

4 Replies to “The Power Within”

  1. This is just what I needed to read today going into finals week of medical school. What an inspirational story. I have heard you tell the story before, but I too had forgotten its powerful meaning. I will keep this in mind and find my inner power to get through this week 🙂

  2. Very inspiring Jan. Keep believing in yourself. I know you can do anything you put your mind to.

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