#ProjectSemicolon, and new ink

Right then… we’ll start with the new ink.

 

The midnight blue band (yes, I went with the traditional blue instead of black) wraps all the way around my forearm and contains my dan ban and the date I earned. I’m rather proud of the achievement and I wanted to immortalize it in flesh. And that is all the karate talk I’m going to have today… or at least in this post. If I have time I’m going to write a second one today about the Instructors’ College I went to on Saturday, but this post is more important to me at the moment.

Let’s start with a warning though, especially to the parents of my karate kids. This post is not something appropriate to share with them. At least not the younger ones.

For those of you not in the know, #ProjectSemicolon attempts to raise awareness of depression, suicide, alcoholism and addiction. The reason for the semicolon is because it is used when an author decided to continue a sentence after it could have been ended. In context, you are the author and the sentence is your life.

Quite a few of you who know me and what the semicolon ink represents have given me props for doing it. Oddly, not a single one of you has asked me why yet.

I first found the project shortly after my father died. Immediately three people sprang to mind. Out of respect for my family I won’t go into details about my father other than to say something came to light that changed the way I perceived his behavior over the years, gave a little insight as to why he drank the way he did. Anyone who’s lived with someone with a drinking problem (he wasn’t an alcoholics, alcoholics go to meetings) knows the damage that can do. There are reasons why groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics exist. So yes, I did it for myself and for my father.

Then there’s my wife. She had a family member who lost her struggle with depression and decided to bow out. It was a hard blow to the family that took what seemed like forever to deal with and move on from. So I did it for her and her family.

But it didn’t stop there. It brought me back to the number of times I’ve picked up, or been picked up by, friends and family members. It made me think of a teen I know who was self harming. It made me think about everyone I come across who may not even be showing signs of struggling but are fighting with these issues constantly.

It made me want to shout “hey, I’ve made it through this. I know a way. Let me show you.” And so I did; in a way that I don’t have to keep repeating myself because it is always there, in plain view, for all the world to see.

This is not a cry for help. This is not me asking for a pat on the back for “doing good”. I faced my demons in the darkness and am proud of how I turned out coming through the other side. I’m in a very happy place with wife, family, friends, the work I do both on the floor and at my “real job”. I am damn near indestructible now. This is me saying I’m here should you need me.

Tang Soo!

For more information on #ProjectSemicolon go to http://www.projectsemicolon.org/

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Achievement Unlocked: Black Belt

As of March 5th, 5:00 PM EST, I am a dan. Okay, it may have actually been 5:10 or so… but 5 is close enough to the mark to make no odds.

So let’s start with the important stuff before we move on to the fun stuff, shall we?

First and foremost – My eternal gratitude to my wife. Not just for supporting me on this journey, but for putting up with everything that came with it. Without your support and understanding I would never have gotten this far.

Second, a huge thank you to the owners of the dojang. You welcomed me into this family almost 5 years ago. You saw my potential and nudged me in the direction of my path. Most important, to me, you trusted me with our kids and allowed me to help them grow. I only wish I had more time to give to them.

Third, my instructors. When I first put on the uniform I had the audacity to tell one of you that I was a black belt, I just needed a little time to prove it. Thank you for giving me that time.

Fourth, the class of 2016. We made it. At points by dragging each other kicking and screaming and sobbing, but we made it.

Fifth (though arguably this should have gone second), to “my kids”. This belt is for you. I wouldn’t have done it for myself. I did it so that you would know it can be done and would brave through the trials ahead. I look forward to the day that I am standing for you at your black belt test with pride.

Finally, to everyone else. All the black belts who came before and helped with the testing. All of the gups who will come after. Everyone who impacted my training and whose training I had an impact on.

As excited as I am about this, I’m a little sad too. I mean, the whole point of this blog was to chronicle the journey. Not that I’ll stop writing it, I just have to embrace the idea of the blog changing.

I think rather than writing out the details of this one, I’m going to share a couple of videos. Most of you have seen these on Facebook earlier today. The rest of you, enjoy.

Tang Soo!

Buggery, they won’t let me upload the videos… I’ll just leave the Facebook links here. But I will throw in a couple of pics…

Self Defences

Redman Fight

 

Achievement Unlocked: Phase 4 or Camaraderie

This posting is oddly difficult for me. I’ve been worrying at it like a dog with a bone for the past hour or two and I’m still not quite sure how to proceed.

Let’s start with something simple then. Something that I’ve been terribly grateful for. In the not too distant past, I would have been lit up for these posts about the testing. Doubly so because I am not just a student taking the test, but also a member of the teaching staff. Black Belt Test used to be a more closely guarded secret than the Kennedy assassination and Area 51 combined. It would be drilled into the candidates heads that this is something you DO NOT TALK ABOUT to anyone who was not already a black belt. MrM even made mention of this yesterday to our guests. Karate schools have a reputation for being cultish. The reason we allow guests for Phase 4 and graduation is to help dispel some of that reputation. In light of that point of view maybe it isn’t so surprising that I’ve been allowed to write these postings. Maybe I’ve been an unwitting pawn in this agenda!

So let’s breeze through the first hour of the test which was a written exam. Many back and forth translations between English and “do jang” Korean. A few questions about our linage back to Kwan Jang Hwang Kee. And a dozen or so “essay” questions. As a writer I would have loved to have more time to answer those in particular. One of them I have answered at length in a blog post back in 2013 (What does black belt mean to you?  https://tippingthevessel.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/disrespecting-the-belt/  ) Maybe I’ll see if I can get my copy of the test back and see if there were any others that would benefit from a vessel tipping. Huh… after rereading that post myself, I realize that it doesn’t quite cover everything I wanted to say about it. Maybe after Phase 5 I’ll revisit it.

The second half of the testing consisted of being called up one at a time to perform a weapon demonstration, a minute or so of defending against an attacker (in a red man suit), and finally answering a question before the panel of black belts.

In a situation like this the best position to be in is to be called first. In this man’s humble opinion if you can’t go first it is best to go last. Guess when I was called up?

There were some truly brilliant displays that I got to watch while waiting for my turn to be called up. They had us sitting in the order we’d be called so I knew I could relax a bit and enjoy the show. Young MrC was on point with his (pardon the pun) sai form. MsZ rocked the sword form. MrsH blew us away with her response the the panel’s question… honestly I could go onto spotlighting everyone.

So finally everyone else is done and now its my turn. First order of business… the sai form. This was painful for me. Everyone else got to choose their weapon for the demonstration, mine was chosen for me. Not a huge surprise really. It’s where I’m at my weakest still. Third move of the form a sai goes flying… out of my good hand… *headdesk* The point got caught in my sleeve. So embarrassing. Oddly, this amused me to no end. I may have even laughed. I mean, this is (almost) exactly what I had been dreading. But from the good hand?

Started again. Second time through I nailed it. No issues, felt strong, and by the pictures that were posted I even looked strong. The fight against the red man was brutal and fun. To be able to completely unload everything on someone without having to hold back or worry about hurting them is cathartic.

The question, and this same question was asked of all the candidates, was “Describe how camaraderie had helped you to and through your black belt test thus far.” And this is why if you can’t go first it is best to go last. Everyone brought up really good points about us being able to lean on each other and pull each other through. How we’d been training together for years coming up through the ranks. MrsH with her “this goes beyond camaraderie, this is family”. There was nothing left for me to say, so I lead with just that “what is left for me say that hasn’t already been?” One of the black belts made a slightly snarky remark about it to which I replied “the advantages of going last. You get to wait to see if something was left out and fill in the missing pieces, or you get to talk for a few minutes without adding anything new and sound good while doing it.” That earned a couple of chuckles.

I think it is safe to assume, even without the letter, that this Phase is at the very least a Conditional Pass. After all they did give us the invitations for guests that we want to bring to Phase 5/Graduation Day. My wife and daughter will be joining me. I’m tempted to hand off two of the remaining invitations to non-black belt FISTs. I was always a little bothered that I never got an invitation to watch Phase 5 so we’ll see what comes of that.

Anywho… that’s all for now… 13 days til graduation. I’m a little excited.

Tang Soo!

Achievement Unlocked: Black Belt Testing Phase 3

I’m not sure how this is even possible. I’m pretty sure my morning after pain for this phase is worse than it was for phase 1. It’s especially uncomfortable in my hips and lower back.  And I’m pretty sure I did tweak my wrist worse than I had originally thought. I’m trying to stay away from the karate kandy, tough my way through it until everything loosens up a bit, but I think I’m going to fold soon and take a few Aleve.

I don’t really have a lot to say about my performance this time around. However that doesn’t mean you’re going to go away after a really short post. A lot happened that needs to be put out into the blogosphere. An important part of what happened yesterday wasn’t really about me… well, okay, it is totally about me – but it’s more about substantial proof that no one makes it through this test alone.

About an hour and a half before the test began I arrived at the dojang to relax and talk to people. Ms. C, one of the younger instructors came over and asked how I was feeling (I’ve been sick again all week) and told me that her little brother (one of the Karate Kid candidates) had been up sick all night because he was completely stressed out about testing. I can totally relate to this, I get the same way sometimes. But of course, he’s a C. so I don’t think about it much. I mean, this family has already produced 3 black belts (2 of them have black belts in Kenpo and Tang Soo Do). When he arrived about 45 minutes later I could tell that he was completely wrecked. Face all puffy, eyes wet and red, and I’m feeling bad about the situation. Luckily there are 3 family members there and a few of the staff members go over and say something, so I’m thinking the situation is covered.

Maybe 10 minutes go by and Ms.M pulls me aside. “He’s trying to talk himself out of testing. I need you to fix this.” I nodded and said something to the effect of I got this, walked over to young Mr C, put my arm around his shoulders and said “let’s go out back and talk.” Got a nod from his father before leading him to the back room. I was a good do be and left the door open, though if it was any of the other kids I would have brought someone else with us. Propriety and all that. The conversation was really one sided. I told him I knew he was afraid of failing, let him know that I was terrified I was going to blow it myself. That I knew exactly what he feeling. Standard pep talk didn’t get through, so switched gears and reminded him that two of his siblings were there and they had his back. Let him know that I had his back. What finally closed the deal? I ended it with “besides, I haven’t met a C yet that can’t beat this test.” THAT got me a smile. He wiped his face on his sleeve and said “thank you, sir.”

I kept an eye on him the entire test. By the end of the grueling 45 minute warm up (HAH! more like attempted murder) I thought he still might get lost in his own head. But no, within 15 minutes of the real work beginning you could see the change in attitude. He had this and he knew it. And I feel no shame at all letting him know that I told him so a couple of times after a couple of particularly dazzling displays of skill.

There were two other near meltdowns yesterday. Another one of the Karate Kids had to retest on the kama set, but had misplaced her kama. They were somewhere in the school, but no one could find them. Now this is kind of a huge deal. One of the testing requirements is to have ALL of your gear with you and not having it is grounds for being failed. So naturally she completely lost it. The instructors knew that she had her kama with her (she had taken the XMA class earlier that morning and had them then) so she wasn’t in any danger, but she thought it was over. After some reassurance from MrM and someone loaning her a pair of kama she had gone back to her spot on the wall but she still looked like she was going to bomb it. So I took it upon myself to slide over a little and tapped her on the shoulder. Reminded her that she’s done this set a million times between class and demos, there was no way she was going to blow it this time. Then Ms. M brought out a pair of kama that were the same style that the KK had just a different color so there was no need to even worry about not being familiar with the weapons she was using. A fierce look in the eyes replaced the worry, a little nod to me and Ms M to say I got this, and she hit the floor running and gave the best performance I’ve seen from her yet.

The last near meltdown was my own. I was a little surprised when I was called up to do the sai form. As I wrote in the last post I was told to modify it so that I could do it even with the injury. When I got my results letter Thursday night I had gotten the Pass, not the Conditional Pass, so I thought that I was in the clear for this phase. Make no mistake, I’ve been working on the form and made some changes to it that would bypass the need for doing the opening and closing of the sai with the left hand. Which turns out was a mistake, but I’ll get to that in a minute. So I’ve known the sai form for two years now. That’s pretty much enough time to have it hardwired in your brain. Trying to rewrite that program is a nightmare. Trying to get it done in two weeks is, for me at least, impossible. So there I am, standing  before the panel with my sai… get through the first six moves with no problems. Seventh move takes me a second to remember what it was… odd, this isn’t one of my changes.. the next three moves I’m trying to put in the changes and do the original form at the same time… and then freeze. Mr.M gives me a sympathetic “I understand the frustration. Start again.” Same. Thing. Happens. Again. Again from Mr.M a sympathetic sounding “try again at phase four.” Afterwards, Mr.M pulled me aside and clarified a few points with me. I didn’t need to change the moves of the form. I could have just changed the pace and cadence to give myself time to flip the sai open and closed with the left hand. Maybe I’ll give that a shot. Remembering tempo changes is a lot easier than trying to remember a “new” form in a short amount of time. This is what happens when I over think things. *headdesk*

Aside from wanting to die during the warm up (and wondering how I would have felt about it if I wasn’t at the end of my second chest cold of the season) I feel great about the rest of the test. A lot of self defences. The last Chil Sung gup form, the three Naihanchi forms. More self defences. A huge ego boost hearing MrM yelling “Nice!” or “Yes!” at me a few times while doing said self defences. Oh! And getting a little bit of payback on one of the sparring aces who beat me hard during phase one. That was also fun.

I’m not sure how I feel about what is coming for phase four. The written part should be easy. I’ve gone above and beyond with my studies of “dojang korean” and the history of Tang Soo Do. The oral part… Well… two years ago it would have terrified me. Public speaking is not one of my favorite things to do. It doesn’t bother me so much anymore, teaching has helped immensely with that. However that still doesn’t save me from having to worry about what might come out of my mouth or how other people will hear/interpret it. There’s a difference between “knowing the right answers” (aka what they want to hear) and being able to keep how you really feel about something completely out of it. In fairness, as far as I know that conflict only applies to one question that is bound to come up. Truthfully I could write a 2000 word post about that one question and then hide for a few months until the hate mail stopped coming in.

Some of you already know what the question is. Anyone who’s paid close attention to this blog should know what my true answer to that question is. For everyone else – keep an eye out in about a month, I may decide to write that 2000 word post after testing is done. I’ll see you all in a week after Phase Four is in the books…

Tang Soo!

Achievement Unlocked: Black Belt Testing Phase 2

Right then. First things first. I feel amazing tonight. Let’s set the tone here. This afternoon I brought it and left it all on the floor. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to phase one I’m walkin on sunshine.

So I need to start off with an apology to you, constant reader. I promised an update as soon as I got the results letter for phase one. Unfortunately I didn’t receive said letter until Thursday night and life didn’t allow the time over the last two days to get a post done. There are four possible results that one can get after each phase: Pass, Conditional Pass, Conditional Fail, and Fail. I got a Conditional Pass. What it boils down to is there were a few things that needed to be fixed by today. Because of the nature of the items, I feel it is safe to say that they were caused more by exhaustion than lack of training/taking the test seriously. I am confident that they were indeed addressed and corrected.

I won’t burden you with a play by play of the test this time. The Cliff’s Notes version – we had a hell of a warm up, followed by a rotation of open hand forms, weapon forms, and self defences, then ended with about half an hour of sparring.

We covered about half of the advanced forms and all of the weapons. I feel like my open hand forms were strong, except for Bassai Dai, at least the first time through it. Someone zigged when they should have zagged and I bumped into them which made me think I had screwed up and I lost focus on the form. Second time went a lot more smoothly. The weapons forms… my partner and I rocked the eskrima set, in fact I need to buy a new pair again as one of mine cracked at one point. Managed to nutcracker my stubbed finger a couple of times during chucks, and yes it hurt. I managed to remember all of the kama set and the bo form. I think the sword form looked strong enough. I’ll talk about the sai form a little later.

Self defenses I had two amazing partners for. It’s a rare opportunity that I get to work with someone big enough that I feel safe hitting them at full power even without any penetration. The only complaint I have about my performance here is that during one of them I peeled my fingernail back getting it caught in my partner’s dobak. Sweat was a given, I was hoping to avoid bleeding this time.

Sparring isn’t one of my favorite pass times. I held my own though and I managed to not forget any of the fights. Pretty sure both knees are bruised from blocking kicks (especially during the “feet only” rounds) They’ll go perfectly with the bruises that are forming on my forearms from the self defenses.

That pretty much covers the test itself. Are you still with me? The hard part for me to write about is next.

As I was heading out to the staff office to put my gear away, MrM pulled me aside. He said he was pleased with my performance, but that he was going to give me an assignment to complete before phase 3.  See, here’s the thing. My hand with the shortened finger… no matter how much time I spend working on opening and closing the sai I’m not getting much progress out of it. I keep telling myself that I can fix this with enough work and practice and patience… but yeah.  The point is, my assignment is to modify the sai form so that it still looks strong, but that I’m able to do it with my… disfigurement. Words can not describe how much I hate having to do this. However, clever man that he is, couched it in a way that I can accept it. Granted it took arguing with MrsT about it afterwards to make me see the light.

The theory goes something along the lines of if I do this: If I accept that I can not handle a sai with my left hand in a manner that allows me to properly perform the form, it will make me a better teacher by being able to help a theoretical future student through a disability of their own and how to modify their karate to work with their limitations. My argument against this was that I do not hold my students to the same impossible standards that I judge myself by.  I would not expect someone else with a similar injury to be able to handle a sai properly. I would not expect someone with a club foot to be able to have a proper horse stance either. For everyone else it is to the best of their ability.

But here’s where it starts to break down, and this is a conclusion I came to on my own terms. It isn’t fair for me to say “it’s okay, just do the best you can” while at the same time pushing myself to frustration trying to do it perfect anyway. Unfortunately, and especially in the minds of impressionable students, actions do tend to speak louder than words. And at some point this theoretical student will see me failing to do it the “right” way and wonder why it is okay for them to work around their issues while I beat my head against the wall trying to ignore my own.

I still hate the idea. It hurts in ways I promised myself I wouldn’t allow after the accident. I swore an oath that I wouldn’t let the finger get in my way, and now I’m being told that I have to let it do just that. Worse than that though? I can’t in good conscious or with any legitimacy argue against it.  In the immortal words of MrsP “suck it up, cupcake!” So now I begin working on modifying the form so that I can look sure and strong while performing it instead of fumbling for a maneuver that in all likelihood I’ll never be able to pull off smoothly.

Okay, so I lied a little. Everything isn’t shiny. But I was honest about how I felt about the way the test went. Started strong, finished strong. What came after… well… that’s not part of the test now, is it?

One last thing – if I get the letter soon enough that I can find the time, I’ll let you know how it turned out in the minds of the panel.

Tang Soo!

Achievement Unlocked: Black Belt Test Phase One, or, Please Make the Pain Go Away.

I’m fairly certain I couldn’t find a spot on me that doesn’t hurt right now even if my life depended on it.

Having problems deciding what I want to say and how I want to say it, so please bear with me. I’m tempted to walk away and ignore this for a few days but I promised updates after each phase and I’m going to stick to that.

First up are a couple of hard truths for me to face. I went into this thinking I was ready for it. Not that it would be easy, never that, but that it was going to be like a 3 hour long class. A hard class, sure, but nothing I couldn’t handle. One of the benefits of having gone through the FIST program and being an instructor is getting more insight into the workings of things than the average student gets. I thought I knew what was coming. I was wrong. So very wrong. And while we’re going with the naked truth – if I had known… if I had be completely cognizant… if I had truly understood what it was going to be like… I would have declined the invitation and given myself another year to prepare.

I’m tempted to give a play by play breakdown of the day. I’m also tempted to work very hard at forgetting the day. 16 hours after the fact the only thing I can say with certainty is that I survived it. All of us who were testing patted each other on the back and said we did awesome, and I meant it every time I said it to one of the others. But I don’t feel it. I survived. That’s not the same as doing great or even good. I did everything that I needed to do, but I can’t say I did it well enough to be sure of getting invited to the next phase.

I can say that I’m proud of my time on the mile run. Even with the chest cold I managed to pull it off in 9 minutes and 9 seconds. The push ups and sit ups I’m disgusted with myself for. Doing sit ups when breathing is taking up almost as much energy as the sit ups themselves sucks. Falling so far behind while doing them that everyone else has to do another 50 “for solidarity” makes me feel like an ass.

The following 45 minutes wasn’t too bad. Think extreme cardio kickboxing class on heavy bags/partners with focus pads/partners with kicking shields. Was coughing pretty hard through it, but I still feel okay about my performance during that.

Okay, this play by play is making me feel a little better. Next up was the beginner forms. Wasn’t expecting any forms to show up this phase. But hey, there’s always room for surprises and I love the forms so I’m not going to complain. So they had us do each form a couple of times, followed up with performing one move from the form done as a self defence. As tired as I was at this point I feel really good about this part. I may not have been as sharp as should have been, but I remembered the one adjustment Mr. M had suggested a few weeks ago about keeping my shoulders back further and opening my chest, so I focused on making sure I was doing that.

After that came two rounds of self defences. For the life of me I can not remember which order they happened in. I know one was every variation of choke defences… from the front, from behind, from the side, from the front and behind against a wall, and front and behind while seated. At some point during the chokes, one of my uke left a really nice pair of deep scratches in my neck. Sweat, check. Blood, check. Don’t worry, the tears make an appearance a little later. The other was a string of defences against a straight punch. It’s strange, being able to rock multiple defences against a straight punch, and yet still having my ass handed to me on a silver platter during sparring later….

The next  bit is a little fuzzy in my head. It was all sparring for the better part of an hour. At first it was 30 second and 10 second rounds against constantly changing black belt partners. That wasn’t so bad. I was able to pound on some, hold my own against some, got pounded on by others. Was a lot like free sparring during a normal class. It ended with the dreaded round robin.

After a round in one of the other candidate’s robin I made my way over to the ring that mine was going to be in. The organizer that was collecting people for that ring looked at me and said “I’m so sorry” then showed me the list of people I was going to be fighting. Sticking with the naked truth again… I wanted to walk away before it even started. I was already exhausted, completely drained physically and emotionally. And I knew I was in for a world of pain. Tears, check. The first two fights were against two of the best fighters the school has produced in the last decade. The third was against someone who was a student that hasn’t been around in while that had tooled on me pretty hard during the 30/10 second rounds. Fourth on the list was one of the other candidates. The fifth and final round was against someone whose skills I respect and hits like a Mack Truck. Side note for anyone who hasn’t done this… The candidates don’t get a break between matches. Already past the point of exhaustion, 5 fights in a row, no resting, against opponents that are fresh. Well, okay, 4 fresh opponents in this case, with 1 as exhausted as you.

First round I took a side kick to the face. It rung my bell so hard that the powers that be were worried about letting me drive myself home afterwards. I can’t say with any certainty that I actually landed a hit during that match. Second round I did land a few solid blows. I remember this because I’ve sparred with this particular person quite a few times and have never been able to tag him in the past. Frustrate him, yes. Jam him up on occasion certainly. But land a solid hit? Not until yesterday. Third match was embarrassing for me. Half way through the round he dropped his guard completely and started yelling at me to hit him. It took a few times of me doing exactly that before he was satisfied and started tooling on me again. Fourth round I was able to catch my breath. Mrs G has less than half my body mass, and was as exhausted as I was. There were lots of hits exchanged, but it was more of a matter of don’t stop moving than it was OMG I’M GOING TO DIE.  I don’t remember anything from the last fight except knowing that it had to stop, it has to stop, I can’t do this anymore, please god let it end.

And then it ended. All in all, it took 3 hours. Felt more like 3 days.

There were many things said by Mr.M that I didn’t hear/understand. We were bowed out. There was some back patting and atta-boys… Somehow I had gotten to the staff office out back, changed out of my uniform and sat down in one of the chairs. I don’t remember doing this either. I do remember feeling like I should close and lock the door so that I could have an uninterrupted complete meltdown. I remember Mr. L coming in and telling him that all I wanted to do was crawl under the desk and cry for a few hours and him saying that was perfectly normal. It took me about half an hour to pull myself together enough that I felt safe to drive home. I was checked on a few times by a pair of instructors so that they were satisfied that I wasn’t concussed and was capable of driving myself home. I stopped at BK on the way for food. I had ramen for breakfast and skipped lunch. I was ravenous. I also made the mistake of ordering 2 of their new chicken burgers. I do not suggest it. They’re horrible. I ate them anyway, but they really were nasty.

I feel bad about last night. I got home and practically ignored my wife for two hours while I showered and decompressed after giving her a brief rundown of what happened during the testing. She swears that it’s okay and she understands, but I still feel bad. Did manage to get in about an hour of cuddle time while watching Elementary and eating dinner. Fell asleep at 9. Woke up at 4:30 this morning unable to fall back asleep. There will be a nap today. And lots and lots of karate candy (pronounced Motrin). I do feel a little better about how it went after writing this. Apparently I did do more than “just survived” it. So now I wait to receive my results, see how my instructors feel about my performance, see if I get to move on to Phase 2.

Tang Soo!

There was a correction made in this post, thanks to Mrs P for catching it. The third person I faced in the ring was in fact a student from our school. He just hasn’t been around since before I signed up.

And now the fun begins…

black belt invite redacted

I’m really not sure what else to say here. Feeling honored and humbled, yes. Excited, of course. Pride, without a doubt.

Nervous? Not really. I’ve paid my dues with blood, sweat and tears. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe for a second that it will be easy. The normal testing anxiety isn’t here though. I mostly chalk that up to the line that says “this is a closed test”. Add to that the fact that it is also a very small testing group… 2 from the kids classes, 6 from the adult class… which means that the graduation day will also be small-ish, not having to worry about screwing up in front of a huge crowd is huge.

And yes, I know, all the black belts who came before are welcome to be at the testing; but that doesn’t matter. They’ve all stood where I’ll be standing. They all remember what it was like, how it felt, the mistakes they made, the sense of accomplishment not only from when they put on the belt at the end but of just getting to this point.

The real trick is going to be staying in this head space. Not letting the doubt kick in and keeping out of my own way. To just loosen up on the reins and let it happen.

The boot camps have shown me where I need to focus my attention to fix things. That being said, bad weather is no longer a valid excuse for not spending 30 minutes to an hour every day working on the forms. I would also love it if I could find the time and a partner to work on self defences. And part of me is really kicking myself for not being able to find a way to get in more sparring classes before now. I can’t take all the  blame. Real life, family time, scheduling can take the brunt of that. But all things I wasn’t willing to give up.

A warm fuzzy feeling that is absolutely terrifying at the same time is the number of people who have congratulated me by saying they’re coming “out of retirement” to be at the test. Of course, it might be to my advantage… for whatever reason they’ve stopped, one could hope that would make them a little rusty, right?

Anyway, that’s all (?!?) for now. I promise that I’ll get a post up after each phase of the test, let you know how I think I did (assuming I make it past the first one). Most likely the day after, but it could happen the same day. Maybe I’ll even do a posting after I get my gradings from each phase. Of course, with time being in such high demand I may just update with the previous grading in the current thoughts posting. We’ll see.

Tang Soo!