Sunday, December 13, 2009

My third belt test

My seven-year-old daughter and I just passed our third belt test yesterday (12/12/09). We are now orange stripes. The test was scheduled for 11:00 AM, but the white belts and yellow stripes were testing at 10:00 AM, and their test went long. There were about 15 yellow stripes and 8 white belts, so that was a pretty big group. Our group used to have 15 in it, too, but a few people have dropped out, and several were out of town for the holidays, so there were only 9 of us testing together yesterday. Anyway, we didn't start until 11:30, but we finished much faster than the previous group.

I was not nearly as nervous for this test as I had been for the previous two, but I did manage to forget our boards for our breaking technique. Fortunately, I remembered just in time to run back home and get them, and then the test was delayed, so we had plenty of time. We only live about a mile from the school.

Before we could begin the test, our instructor had to put something away in the office, so he told us to practice our forms, self defense and one-step sparring for a couple of minutes. It was pretty funny. We kept running into each other. The test began with warm ups, and then we seemed to fly right through our techniques. Master Byong-Cheol Kim commented on how well my daughter executed her punches. Our only new techniques were the front-foot roundhouse kick and the front-foot side kick. I also think that the masters were in a hurry to get back to Lake Oswego to get ready for the holiday party.

We did our form without any trouble. And then we ran through our self-defense and one-step sparring. I tried to do the self defense moves quickly, and I think I surprised my instructor because although he had been dropped to the ground six times already, he seemed surprised when a threw him to the floor.

During our previous tests, our instructor held our boards for us one at a time, while we demonstrated our breaking technique. This time, in order to hurry things along, the masters came out from behind their table and held boards for us as well, so we got to break three at a time. Anyway, Master Byong-Cheol Kim held my board for me. He said I had a really strong side kick which made me feel very proud of myself.

We all received our new belts. My daughter's and mine were yellow belts with orange stripes. It's an intermediate step between yellow belt and orange belt. My daughter also received a small trophy and a gold star (for her uniform) for having an excellent attitude and earning ten black stripes. The black stripes are stickers that our instructor applies to her belt each week that she shows a good attitude at home. After we got our new belts, our instructor (Jason Leitzke) gave each family a Christmas present. We opened ours in the car. It was a taekwondo ornament for the Christmas tree.

At 5:00 PM was the holiday party in Lake Oswego for the students and families from all four of Master Kim's taekwondo schools. It was a potluck, lots of demonstrations, an award ceremony, and a talent show. I liked the demonstrations best. There was a tiny tiger demonstration that was really cute. Tiny tigers are taekwondo students between the ages of 4 and 6. They did punches and kicks and breaking. It was awesome.

Then the demonstration teams did some things, mostly the same things that we saw at the tournament in April. Three of the four schools have demonstration teams. Our school doesn't have a demonstration team because we only have three black belts. We need about a dozen, I think. The talent show featured a violinist in the first act and then four boys break dancing as the second act.

The awards ceremony featured 36-inch trophies. They were handed out in several categories: best focus, most improved student, leadership, family of the year, parent of the year, etc. One student from each school won a trophy in each category. I was very surprised to hear my name called out as the recipient of the parent of the year award from my school. My four-year-old son REALLY liked my trophy, so I decided he could carry it home, and we would display it in his room.

The masters' demonstration was the final event. A master is someone who has achieved the rank of a fourth degree black belt. It takes three years to earn a black belt, another year to earn a second degree, two more years to earn a third degree and the three more years to earn a fourth degree, so a forth degree black belt represents 9-10 years of study. If a black belt is like a high school diploma, then a fourth degree black belt is like a master's degree, maybe. There are also 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th degree black belts.

Anyway, they did a lot of cool stuff. I thought Master Kim was going to hurt somebody when they brought out the boards he was planning to break. We usually break boards that are 12-inches square of varying thicknesses depending on age. My boards are about half an inch thick, while my daughter's boards are about a quarter of an inch thick. I think these boards were at least half an inch thick, but they were 36-inches square. They were holding at least six of them, and it wasn't easy. They wore gloves to keep the boards from cutting their hand, and improve their grip. There was one guy on each side, and then another guy behind each of them, and a fifth guy steadying the lot. I thought Master Kim was going to break their arms if he actually kicked those boards hard enough to break them, but he pulled it off without a hitch. I think he used a back kick, and the boards just crumbled. When they did, children from the sidelines rushed out onto the mats to snatch up the pieces. They took them home like trophies.

Master Kim did another demonstration with a blindfold. His friend Master Je-Kyoung Kim, held an apple on the end of short stick and a bell. He rang the little bell right next to the apple, and Master Kim kicked the apple right off the stick and entirely over the audience.

There was some concern about icy road conditions but we didn't have any trouble getting home.

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