Edgard Bou Daher is a Taekwondo 4th Degree Black belt. He’s trained martial arts from an early age and to this day he is as passionate, if not more, about learning and improving his skill. It hasn’t been an easy road for him. There’s been injuries, challenges, and obstacles to overcome, but through determination, he’s been able to venture deep into the path of mastery.
Here he is in his own words:
Q. What was your initial motivation to start training TaeKwonDo? Did you have any specific goal?
A. It happened by accident. I was sixteen years old and my cousin passed me his membership to the TaeKwonDo School because he couldn’t attend anymore.
After training for some time I became obsessed with it. I liked that it was not just brute force, there was a very complex technical side to it. Because I was bullied when I was young, the idea of skill beating brute force was very appealing to me. I wanted to be able to defend myself.
Other than that, I didn’t have specific goals when I started to train, I just really liked training. I wasn’t thinking about getting belts or recognition, I just liked it.
Q. What kept you motivated all these years?
A. I became very good friends with the people at the school so training was also like going to see my friends. There was a sense of camaraderie and of being part of a family. I didn’t want to be left behind, so it became a given that I would go train, there was no question about it.
Now, TaeKwonDo is something that I don’t see my life without, I don’t feel I need motivation anymore, it’s just part of who I am.
Q. Were there times you wanted to quit?
A. I never felt like quitting, I really enjoyed my training. There was a time though that I slowed down a lot because of a bad injury, but I didn’t quit. I think an injury is not a reason to quit -unless is something really serious- you want to quit on your own terms.
I did become more concerned about my body and my health so I don’t go as intense as before. I want to train for as long as possible and if I suffer a serious injury I would have to stop completely.
I regret the injuries, but not too much, because what TaeKwonDo has given to my life is more valuable than the pain the injuries caused me.
Q. What does mastery mean to you?
A. Mastery is the rejection of mediocrity. You realize you are on the right path when you start directing your own development and pushing harder without someone telling you to do so.
Q. How would you teach someone TaeKwonDo?
A. I would have him or her focus mostly on the fundamentals. When I go to practice I try to always start from the basic moves and build on top of them. I also go slow until the technique flows, then I start adding speed.
The advanced kicks are variations of the basic kicks. So the way I would train someone would be to spend a lot of time working on the fundamentals -The basic kicks, the stance, pushing the floor, and letting the energy flow- those things will give the student the foundation to do everything else.
Q. When it comes the time to perform (to compete or have a belt exam) what goes through your mind?
A. I practice and prepare a lot before it’s time to perform but once I start performing I just let go. My logical mind shuts down. I become a spectator, I look at my body doing the movement, I am not thinking at that point, I let my body do what I trained it to do, this is what it’s called flow. It’s very interesting, it feels like one side of me is executing and the other side is experiencing what I’m doing.
A very important point about performance is that no performance is perfect, but you have to keep going. Don’t stop right after you make a mistake, if you do, you’ll get too much in your head, lose your flow, and mess up everything else. Keep going without overthinking or beating yourself up for making the mistake.
Q. If you had to start over, would you do it again? What would you do differently?
A. Yes, I would do it again. I would train harder though, more diligently.
Q. How did your perspective of the sport evolved as you got better?
A. Before I wanted to impress others, now I want to impress myself.
Q. You see a lot of students come and go in your dojo, what are the characteristics of the ones that last and the ones that don’t?
A. The ones that don’t last are the ones that think they will get it right away. They are usually very talented, but they get bored, they feel like is taking too long or that they are too good for it. You have to train often, you can’t just do it a few times and master the skill.
Talent is not enough, you also need discipline and perseverance. Many champions out there didn’t have the talent at first, but their discipline and perseverance allowed them to find it afterward.
When you have to struggle from the start you see that obstacles are the rule, not the exception. Some very talented people have easy beginnings, things go smoothly for them, but they end up crumbling at the first major challenge they face. They don’t have the strength in character necessary to move past difficulties.
Another important difference is that the students that last take themselves lightly, They make a mistake and just worry about fixing it. They don’t start beating themselves up.
I will also say that the ones that last are humble. You have to be humble if you want to learn a skill. Someone will be correcting you, so you have to accept that there are people better than you and that you are there to learn from them.
Some people don’t like to be corrected, not even by the master. They start arguing and their ego flame up. That’s not the place for that. You have to remember that you are there to improve.
Q. Any final thoughts?
A. Give your best on what you do. People can see it and they will respect you regardless of the outcome, but more importantly, you’ll respect yourself.