The Kicking Soldier Athlete

The key to your fitness program is motivation. You must learn to fight off distractions and find a balance.

This column will take a different direction than the usual running focus and look at the sport of Taekwondo. According to the World Taekwondo Federation, the sport is one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional arts that teaches more than physical skills.

It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind.

We are going to look at the sport through the eyes of a new Army recruit, Private First Class Amanda Bluford, who has been accepted into the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. In addition to their regular duties, the soldiers in the program train at a high level with the goal of making the U.S. Olympic teams in a variety of Olympic sports.

The program is highly competitive.

Bluford enters the program with an impressive resume, which she has represented while on the United States team in several competitions.

The sights now are on the 2020 Olympics.

Bluford has taken some time to share thoughts about her journey and how she excels in a sport which very much defines who she is and what she is willing to give to achieve a goal. While others are sleeping, Bluford is always training. She has put in the hard work and effort to gain her experience. Bluford has been fighting for her dream since she was 7 years old.

As I have stated in previous columns, a training program for any sport serves no purpose unless you are prepared to take action to make a change. The goal is for you feel good about what you achieve.

In order to be last in a race you have to work hard. I was the last person in a 50-mile race several years ago, and let me say I worked for that spot. When I was near the finish line, you thought I was the winner because of all of the excitement.

You know that moment will always stand out.

So, put the phone in another room and get a cup of tea or coffee, and take a few moments to enter the space of Bluford. Enjoy.

Bluford shares thoughts about the attraction of the sport of Taekwondo: “It may sound a little psycho, but my attraction comes from the control that I have. Life is uncertain. Many things happen that are out of our control. Yet with Taekwondo, I feel that even though I cannot control my career completely, I at least get to influence it more than other parts of my life. I control how much I train. I control how hard I train. I know that if I train more, my results will be better. It’s very simple. That’s what I like. Other parts of life are so complicated.”

No matter the sport, changes came as Bluford made adjustments. “A lot of my struggles in my life have come from this sport. If you don’t play an American sport like basketball or football where the path is paid with full-ride scholarships and sponsorships, your career as a professional athlete will be very challenging. That is, if you don’t already have enough funds from your own pockets. I have sacrificed so much for this dream that I am still in disbelief of myself when I think about it. One of the main things being me joining the Army and going through 18 weeks of Army training.

Due to this struggle that I have encountered from chasing my dream, I have changed personally into a resilient soldier. I stand ready to do what has to be done at any moment in order to reach my dreams. There isn’t a second thought of how hard it might be or how long it might take. I just need to know where to go to get it done.”

Bluford made a decision to join the U.S. Army to achieve a goal. “I knew that in order to achieve all of my dreams in my life, I couldn’t do it without taking a huge risk. I forget where I heard this from but there is a saying that goes something like, ‘If it doesn’t scare you then you are not taking a big enough risk’. Joining the Army scared the turd out of me. I have heard stories of basic training, and I would think to myself that I would never put myself in a situation like that where I would feel so disrespected and uncomfortable in my life. Now, here we are 18 weeks later. That’s why I never say ‘never’ anymore.”

Prior to joining the Army, Bluford’s life, while attending Florida International University, had demands which required adjustments. “I just tried my best. I utilized every single second I had and adjusted what I could. For example, I had to drop out of FIU in 2016 because I was traveling too much, and I also had a job to support myself. Eventually, I was able to do part-time school online, and I picked up another job. In total before I joined, I worked two jobs and did school part-time online as well as training full-time (twice a day). Surprisingly, I maintained a 4.0 GPA in my online school, and I made it to work and training on time every day. Looking back, I laugh because honestly, I don’t know how I did it. I would go to training in the morning then go straight to work for that good old nine-to-five, then stop back home for a meal before training. And every night I would have to start my schoolwork. The faster I got it done, the faster I would get to go to sleep. On average I would go to sleep no earlier than 1 a.m.”

There are times when results do not match effort, and Bluford must reassess her plan. “I train harder. It’s that simple. That goes back to why I like Taekwondo. It is not rocket science. It is easy. You just have to work hard. Many people are afraid of hard work and pain. I am not. I search for it. Nothing will be worth it if everything is easy.”

What do you consider your top achievement to date?

Buford believes her top achievement to-date is her appearance in the 2016 Pan Am Championships. “That is the biggest competition that I won to-date on paper, but I consider it my top achievement because of what I was going through at the time. The same week that I left for the Pan Am championships, I packed and moved into a new place by myself. My old place had many problems, and the landlord wasn’t the best to work with. The move just so happened to be the same week that I was going to compete in Mexico. While I was moving, I had to cut weight for my division as well as pick up hours at my job because not only was the new place that I was moving into more expensive, but I was going to be away from work for a week at the championships. I went into this competition unseated with barely any world ranking. I was able to quiet my mind with all of my problems outside of the competition and just fight. I fought so hard. And because of that I feel so proud.”

 

 

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About George Banker

George Banker is the Operations Manager for the Army Ten-Miler (US Army / MDW), the second largest 10-mile road race in the Unites States and this year the race will accept 35,000 runners. The responsibilities include the operational planning, logistics, community outreach, designing of the course, volunteer recruitment, and support to medical and police jurisdictions. Started August 2003. Prior to joining the Army Ten-Miler he worked 25 years at IBM serving in administration and management within the federal marketing environment in Bethesda, Maryland. Retired from the U.S. Air Force (Enlisted grade Technical Sergeant) Experience include ground refueling supervisor and cryogenic fluids production supervisor. He received 14 military decorations including the Air Force Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (1969-1989). Since 1983, a freelance photographer and journalist, Senior Writer for the Runner’s Gazette, contributor to Running Journal newspaper, and RunWashington. District of Columbia Road Runners Club (DCRRC) Hall of Fame Inductee for 2006 The former president and meet director for the Mid-Atlantic Corporate Athletic Association Relays (1986-1993). Director for the Washington’s Birthday Marathon Relay (1989-1999), started the Relay. Race consultant, and steering committee member with the following events: Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run (1989), George Washington’s Parkway Classic 5K/10 Miler, Lawyer’s Have Heart 10K, Marine Corps Marathon (Historian - Ad Hoc Publicity Committee) , Navy Half Marathon & 5-Miler, and Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. State Record Keeper USA Track & Field, 1993 to present. Chair, Trends and Issues Committee, Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) 1993-2000. Member USA Track and Field Hall of Fame. Avid runner, 99 marathons completed and serve in additional capacity as race announcer, media relations, and invited elite runner coordinator for several local area races. Six JFK 50 Miler completed to date. The Marine Corps Marathon in October 2014 will be my 100th marathon and my 31st time running it. Author of “The Marine Corps Marathon A Running Tradition” (1976-2006) September 2007 publish date. Completed 30 MCM’s to date (2013). (http://www.runwithmeworld.com) December 2006 MetroSports Athlete of the Month Hall of Fame Inductee 2011 – Marine Corps Marathon Running PRs: Marathon 3:04:32 (’88) Houston-Tenneco, Half-Marathon 1:22:40 (’84) Philadelphia Distance Run, 10-Miles 1:02:10 (’87) Army Ten-Miler, 10K 37:42 (’84) Diabetes Derby, 5K 18:28 (’88) Stanford University, 1600 Meters 5:18 (’87) Gallaudet University. Graduated with an AA in Accounting from Prince George’s Community College with honors, Largo, MD (’76), and a BBA in Accounting from George Washington University, Washington, DC (’84). Educational community involvement: Volunteer speaker, Connection Resource Bank, Division of Family and Community Partnerships, Montgomery County Public Schools (1995- Present) MCMHistory.com

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