Monday, March 7, 2011

My eighth belt test

On Monday 03/07/2011 I took my eighth belt test at KnK World Champion Taekwondo in Scappoose, Oregon. I advanced from blue belt to brown stripe (a blue belt with a brown stripe). It represents two full years of taekwondo study. This time next year, I will be preparing for my black belt test. This was my first belt test without Master Jason Leitzke. He had been my instructor up until he enrolled in nursing school in January. It was a little sad to test without him. Our new instructor is Mr. HyungMin "Eric" Jun. Our test was scored as usual by Grand Master Byong-Cheol Kim, but Grand Master Je-Kyoung Kim was not in attendance. He has only ever missed one other belt test. I imagine his schedule did not permit him to be in Scappoose that night.

My test began at 7 o'clock and included green belts, blue stripes and blue belts. The white belts had tested at 6 o'clock and the yellow and orange belts had tested at 5 o'clock. Our school doesn't have any brown belts or red belts yet. We do have one black belt (first dan) and one black stripe. He will test for his first dan next month. Sometimes they attend our belt tests as assistant instructors, but they did not attend tonight. There's been a lot of flu going around. I hope they are not ill. Their absence made me high belt, so I lead the bowing ceremony. It's pretty simple and easy enough. I just have to say: "Attention, face the flags, bow. Attention, face the grand master, bow. Attention, face the instructor, bow." But I have to say it all in Korean, and I couldn't' remember the word for grand master, so I just said the word for master. No one corrected me, so I guess I didn't offend anyone.

We started with some jumping jacks and some stretching. Then, the instructor asked the green belts and the blue stripes to sit down. And the blue belts did some pushups, blocks, stances and punches. There were only four of us: me; my friend, Heidi Peck, my eight-year-old daughter, and her six-year-old son. We did our self-defense and one-step sparring (which seemed to me a lot like a self defense move). Our self defense move started with an attacker holding a knife on us. We slapped the attackers wrist from both sides with our hands, causing him to drop the knife. Then we jumped up, spun around and kicked him in the chest with a back kick. Our one-step sparring moved started with a bear hug from behind, we dropped to a bent knee position and trust out our arms to break our attackers grip, then we placed two elbow strikes in his ribs, jumped up and placed a back kick in his chest. We practiced lots of back kicks in preparation for this test.

Our form this time was Tae Guk O Jang. It was a little complicated because it featured lots of back fist strikes and middle blocks which look almost the same, so it was challenging to perform them both precisely enough to tell the difference. I had a little trouble keeping my back foot down during all the front stances, but at least we didn't switch stances constantly like in our last form. The form also features a side kick with a punch. We've never done a kick and a punch at the same time before, but the best part was the hop. After the last kick, we hop forward, land in cross stance, perform a back fist strike and yell. It's a pretty cool finish.

After our form, we lined up to kick a target. We did round house kick and back kick, four each with each leg. Grand Master Kim complemented me on my back kick. He said that I had very good form. I felt seven feet tall. I've been working really hard, but my back injury has made every thing very difficult these past few months. I think maybe all the work I've been doing with my physical therapist to improve my posture has made me a better martial artist. Who would have thought?

Then we sat down, I was a little surprised. It didn't seem like we had done very much. The green belts and the blue stripes took the floor and did their pushups, blocks, punches, forms and kicks. There were eight of them: four green belt and four blue stripes. It seemed like they did more, but maybe it just took them a little longer because there are more of them. I remember Master Kim had a lot of praise for one little boy who showed much improvement. He's a shy little guy that mostly just tries to keep up by copying his brother. They look the same size, they might be twins, but they are very different in temperament.

Their self defense moves included throwing their attacker to the floor. Mr. Eric made a great show of falling very hard as usual, but two students: Mr. Rob and Ms. J.T. move really very fast, so I'm not sure if he was just showing off, or if he really did fall that hard. I tried throwing my partner really fast like that once, and I dropped her right on her head. Since then, I've been very careful about my self-defense routines.

The next thing we did was to read our philosophies and our bad habits. I wrote that my bad habit was eating junk food, but Master Kim remembered that was my bad habit last time. I did not remember that, so I tried to think of what it was last time, and my friend, Mr. Bert reminded me that last time I said that my bad habit was spending too much time playing video games - everyone laughed at that - again.

We all broke our boards without any trouble. Blue belts used an elbow strike to break their boards. My eight-year-old daughter received a trophy and a gold star for having an excellent attitude for the past several weeks. I think all the children earned their trophies this time. At the test, they did NOT have new belts for us. They have been ordered, but they have not arrived. That's always a little sad and frustrating and anti-climatic, but they did have two very exciting announcements. First, they will be having four session of summer camp at our school in Scappoose, so the kids can come and play taekwondo all day long for $150 per week. They are even going to teach them some nunchuk routines. Second, they will be going to Korea and China in June. I wish I could go, but they need the money by the end of the month, and even though it's only $3300, I just can't put it together in time, but I have started a plan to get it together for next year. My eight-year-old daughter is planning to raise her share of the money with a lemonade stand!