Thursday, March 05, 2009

A long journey

In the interest of full-disclosure, I am providing the following post with hesitation.  You would be hard-pressed to find many posts that are remotely braggadocios in the 7 years of archives.  This would be one of them.

At 6:30 Friday night, I drove to my do jang (Karate school), where I've studied taekwondo for about 5-1/2 years.  The facility is routinely opened Monday through Thursdays, but tonight was a special event, held no more than once per year.

At 7:00 the doors were locked.   They wouldn't be unlocked until the next morning: the Black Belt test had begun.

Several students, ranging in age from 12 to 40-somethings, were invited to test for their Belts.  One 14 year old was there to test for his 2nd Black Belt, the rest for 1st Black Belt (in popular culture, the common parlance is that a martial arts student has a 1st degree black belt or some other degree; the Korean term would 1st Dan, 2nd Dan, etc).

I cannot go into details about the test, largely because the precise details are to be held in confidence among the students (admittedly, I may have already disclosed enough to have some enterprising student figure out who I am).      Suffice it to say it was a hard test, one that wore out everyone (including yours truly, the oldest student).  We were allowed to bed down for the night around 1:00, and were up at 5:30.   Every bit of our training - which would have to be at a minimum of 3 years - was tested.  Limited rest-time was provided in between the various drills, making it a test of how well we could think/react/perform under physical and mental stress.

Around 10:30 Saturday morning, I limped out (literally) with the rest of the students, knowing we had met the challenge.    In a few weeks time, I expect to receive a certificate indicating that the Black Belt presented to me is recognized world-wide.

The World Taekwondo Federation recently altered the requirements for the next step, 2nd Dan.    Originally, there was to be a minimum of 2 years between the 1st and 2nd Dans; now, a 1st Dan can test for a 2nd Dan with 120 hours of training in 12 months.   

While it has been said that earning a 1st Dan Black Belt is not the end of a journey, but rather the beginning, there's likely not going to be a 2nd Dan in my near future.  I cannot see being able to average 10 hours per month in the next year.   Conceivably, I could test for it in 2011, so there's hope.    Already, I have begun to study my next Poomse (Kumegang).

My 13 year old son began training with me some 5-1/2 years ago; he dropped out and back in again several times over the years. I kept up the training, hoping to encourage him to return after each of his breaks. I am hoping now that my earning a Black Belt will spur him on to meet - or perhaps exceed - my achievement. He expects to test for his 4th Gup this month, so he could even test for his 1st Dan in 2010. You know I'll be pulling for him.

However, something that I said in this very blog would never likely happen, in fact has: I have earned a Black Belt.

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