Tuesday, June 22, 2004


So we’re approaching the one year mark of my adventurers in Tae Kwon Do. My 8 year old son and I take the classes (which I refer to as ‘Stretch, Sweat & Ache’), and so far I’ve kept up with him (but just barely). We’re presently ranked as ‘Yellow belt with green stripe’, which I am told in some Karate schools is called an Orange belt. He takes the first class, which is almost exclusively the 10 and under set. Officially, any child who attains a red belt is invited to participate in the later class, but most of the high-belt kids stay in the junior class, and that makes sense. My class is a mixture of 12 year old black belts down to 30 year old white belt (a newbie).

Rarely a week goes by that I am not, in some way, placed into a position I would otherwise never imagine being. Case in point: last night.

We had a small group, 8 students. After the routine 30 minutes of calisthenics, we stepped to the outside of the ring. The high-belt in our class, a 13 year old, 2nd degree black belt, was alone in the ring. The next-highest belt steps into the ring with her. At the command of Sa Ba Nim (the Master Instructor), the sparring begins. The next ranking student also enters the ring, but stays to the side of the action. After 15 seconds, the command is given and the first fighter falls away from the high-belt, the second fighter immediately begins sparring the 13 year old.

This is repeated for each of the remaining 5 students. After which time, the 13 year old goes to the end of the line, and the process is repeated again. This is some of the most intense sparring I’ve experienced in the one year I have been involved in TKD, obviously for the person consistently in the ring. The purpose of any classroom sparring event is to allow lower belts to spar with higher belts. I hold a ‘yellow belt with green stripe’, as does my son (in some schools, this is an orange belt).

During my turn as the lone person, I fared pretty well until the 4th or 5th contestant entered the ring. By that time, I am winded, and even if the person I am sparring is of a lower belt, I have trouble putting up a credible defense.

10 minutes earlier, however, I was sparring against another female, this time about 16 years old. In these matches the sparring is quick and frantic, in that we have such a concise time limit before the next contestant. And for the person in the center of the ring, things get chaotic. We have certain rules that must be followed in sparring, not the least of which is equipment. Helmet, mouth guard, shin protectors, and chest protector are bare minimum. Many opt for hand and foot pads as well, and for all males an athletic supporter and sport cup. Being the cheap person I am, I naturally get by on the minimum.

During the match I am holding my own fairly well with the green belt (higher-belt) until I pivoted to throw a round-house kick while she was pivoting to throw an angle kick. Hers was delivered straight on the mark, directly in the athletic supporter.

Friends, it is amazing this Blog did not collapse altogether. For the next 5 or 6 seconds (it may have been an hour for all I knew) I continued to deliver kicks and punches and defend myself from same until the call to the next competitor was made.

I then peeled off to outside of the ring. It was then that I collapsed. In my life I have taken shots below the belt a dozen or so times, but never had I experienced a shot to a sport cup, and let me just say: I am hard-pressed to say it helped much at all!

Today I am still a little bruised in the region, but none the worse for wear. And to think: I pay for this fun!

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