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Bronze is the New Gold...

... 4-Stars is the New 5.

I’ve been doing Tae Kwon Do for over a decade. I love the art and have dedicated so much of my life to it. (I even had my own martial arts school for a brief period of time). Trophies and medals from years of winnings reside proudly on top of my shelves.

After years of bruises, discipline, and dedication, I finally was promoted to 3rd Degree Black Belt in November 2018 (3rd dan was originally the highest degree in our Chung Do Kwan style). Being in the game so long with decent experience one would think that I’d seen it all.

That’s never the case.

Twice a year, the Chung Do Kwan (Blue Wave) schools in the North East host tournaments. Everyone gets together for this fun, competition. However, there are times you never know what to expect.

The previous tournament (early Nov 2018) before my promotion left me bruised, limping, and a little down. It was the first time my performance had not been quite what I expected. While I had a great time with my peers/opponents and was placed in a division higher than my own, I still felt a pang of disappointment.

Once again, I felt like I had failed and I wasn’t good enough. There was some bar I had set for myself that I didn’t reach.

On May 11th, 2019, I participated in my first tournament as a 3rd Dan (degree). I approached this one with a different attitude than the previous. My expectations weren’t “prove my skills” or “be the best”. Rather, it was “test my skills” and “do my best”. I lowered the imaginary bar of expectations and felt a sigh of relief.

L-R: Sah-buhm (instructor) Jamie vs Me

The day of the event, I felt good. When my division was called, I took a few deep breaths (breathing in the albuterol of my inhaler) and went up to the judges with a different mindset. They explained the rules and we prepared to start. Another peer and I were called up first to demonstrate our form: Jah Un. I closed my eyes and waited for the command. My heart thumped in my chest. When we were called to ready, I breathed out and felt the thrill of the art when she commanded us to begin. The rest was history. My forms, sparring matches, and board-breaking demonstrations were all done with enthusiasm and determination.

After an hour of non-stop competing, I had placed 3rd place in both Forms and Sparring.

Okay, so now you’re probably wondering why I am telling you this lengthy story? Oh wow, all that work for 3rd and 3rd, woop-dee-doo. What’s the point? If you’re a writer, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with your life?

The answer is this:

I have never been as proud or as happy with any other Tae Kwon Do performance than I have been with those 2 bronze medals.

The experience that was shared with those medals is what was important. Each one held a takeaway that I learned and I hope you leave here with. (They both relate exactly to how I react to 4-Star reviews):

1) Remember, you don’t know everything.

Sah-buhms (Instructors) Hayley [1] and Jamie [2], Sam-don me [3], and Sam-don Hope [4]

If I knew everything already, what’s the point in continuing? The bronze medals showed me that I am doing great, but can still do better. It was an honor to stand on the 3rd place podium beneath two of my instructors who became my peers. I was able to look up to them and be inspired to continue and become better.

So the next time you get a 4-star review or a lower place in a sport, don’t look at it as you failed. Take it as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself these questions: “How can I learn from this? What can I do to become better?” Rather than wallowing and whining, you can do something about it. You can turn those 4-stars into a 5 or that bronze into gold and you’ll feel much more accomplished doing so.

2) Do it because you love it.

I came, I saw, I conquered. I had so much fun competing. Sure, I came off with bumps, bruises, and pains in my chest but every moment was spent out of good sport. Honestly, I don’t think any other art has as much fun and sportsmanship as ours (I may be biased, but ya’know). When we’re done beating the crap out of each other, we hug, give pats on the back, and encourage. There was no poor sportsmanship and I’ve made great friendships with my opponents.

Whether you fight or write, do it because you love it. If your peers don’t have “good sportsmanship”, don’t worry about them. Encourage them and if you don’t receive it back, move on. Don’t lose your focus or your dedication because someone else is dragging you down. The love and thrill you feel for writing or your sport should not be hindered. In the end, the only one who’s stopping you is you. Don’t set your bar so high that you can’t jump over it.


At the end of the day, I was proud of what I had accomplished. I knew I wasn’t perfect and I had room to grow and that was all right.

I was happy, I was inspired, and that’s what matters.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope that you can find joy in your own life when you experience those Bronze or 4-Star moments. Remember, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your expectations the first time. With determination and an open mind, you will grow, improve, and feel even greater when you receive that Gold medal (5-star review).


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