“A lot of life is just blind faith, pushing through the flat spots. But if we’re going to do something, it’s important that we give it 100%.”
We were in Tae Kwon Do class, we were sparring, we were about 45 minutes into our hour-long session when our instructor, Mr. Rhee, spoke loudly in that commanding voice of his.
“Okay, over here,” he said, waving the dozen of us yellow belts into the center of the dojang. “In the bathroom there’s Windex and paper towels. I want you guys to clean the mirrors.”
Mr. Rhee pointed to the mirrors that reflected back our disappointed expressions. Normally he didn’t treat us this way.
We did as we were told. We got the Windex and the paper towels and we cleaned the mirrors. But before we were finished—well before we were finished—he said, “Okay, okay, that’s enough, come sit down.”
We gathered around him in a circle. He spoke in that commanding way of his, albeit with a hint of gentleness.
“So listen up. I don’t need you guys to clean my mirrors. I pay someone to do that—she comes twice a week. But here’s what I saw: some of you were resisting the whole time, wondering why the heck Mr. Rhee has you doing his dirty work. Some of you cleaned, but you did it in a half-assed way. And some of you cleaned the mirrors as best as you possibly could, pouring your elbows and hearts into it, doing it with pride.
In his black gi, Mr. Rhee dropped to the mat and sat cross-legged. We did the same.
“We don’t always know why we’re doing things,” he said, palms upturned. “A lot of life is just blind faith, pushing through the flat spots. But if we’re going to do something, it’s important that we give it 100%.”
He paused, cleared his throat, massaged what might have been a cramp in his foot, and continued.
“There are times in life when things are at a low ebb—you don’t have the classes you want at school, you don’t have the jobs you want, you don’t have the boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband you want. But you can never let that be an excuse to give anything less than 100%. If you give those low ebb things your 100% then when it all lines up the way we want it to, we’ll be ready to give it our all.”
Mr. Rhee popped to his feet, bowed.
“Now go have a great night, and I’ll see you guys next week.”
---Jamie Brisick is a writer, photographer, and director. He surfed on the ASP world tour from 1986 to 1991. He has since documented surf culture extensively. His books include Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn’s Transformation into Westerly Windina, Roman & Williams: Things We Made, We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations, Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and The Eighties at Echo Beach. His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He was the editor of Surfing magazine from 1998-2000, and is presently the global editor of Huck. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles. For more of his work check out jamiebrisick.com & @jamiebrisick