.

When I started Taekwondo on the 23rd of January, 2007, I was one of two white belts in a class composed entirely of black belts. I trained with diligence and dedication, and I can say now that my technique was better than most of the coloured belts and some of the black belts. I was a star, and I strived to improve, always pushing myself, always eager to leap ahead.

As I am now, I am less flexible than the day I joined. The tendons in my legs are scarily tight, and they seriously limit the height of my kicks. It went from above my head to just above my shoulders. And every day I train, it gets a little bit worse.

The black belt grading is in nine days. The 25th of May. I feel it quite cruel that the longer I am made to train, the less chance I have of going for it. Master Ross has made no sign that he’ll let me sit it, and if I am denied, I will have to train another four to six months for the next grading. I’m worried that, by then, I won’t be able to kick at all.

But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep training, and I’m going to get my black belt. It has been my dream for so many years, and I believe that it’s probably worth being crippled for life by a build-up of scar tissue. Kinda sucks though.

Wish me luck for getting in. Rar.

Fight of the Valkyrie

So I rock up to grade today, even though I graded last month. Carmela bent the rules for me, for which I am grateful. As I was warming up and stretching, I felt a little anxious because my legs were suffering from pangs of unexplainable pain whenever I moved them, at all. So I figure, Damn, must need more time to warm up. So I stretched until I was feeling all right and the grading began.

First up, Taeguk (pattern) 5, scored the magical number of 69. Taeguk 6 was the same, but Taeguk 7… I did the first four moves and froze, unable to remember what came next. Strike one.

Second up, kicks, which I’m fairly good at.
"One." Push-kick, axe kick, turning kick. No problem. I go for the first one, and BAM. Felt something in my leg stretch beyond the point of no return. I followed up with the next two kicks anyway.
"Two." Push kick, axe kick, turning kick. God that hurts, just ignore it, it’ll be over soon.
"Three." Felt it get worse. To borrow a phrase from a website somewhere, ‘It felt like someone was stabbing my hamstring with rusty daggers of fire.’
"Four." My left hamstring suddenly burned with heat and my first thought (as a human biology student) was, "Heat = blood. Damn, must’ve ripped the muscle. I hope it isn’t staining my uniform. If it is, Carmela will let me know."

So I continued on for about 20 more kicks of all different kinds. My height, balance and power suffered as a result, but I didn’t do too badly overall with an above-average score of 68.

Board-breaking: my old nemesis. Mr Red Board was feeling all cocky and stuff, so I thought I’d teach him a lesson with my buddy Mr Side Kick. I didn’t break the board. That said, my other very good friend, Mr Back Kick sure showed him.

All in all, I passed "adequately". Which is one above pass, and one below honours. Don’t think I deserved it, but I’m grateful. Probably won’t be training for a while, which is as good as any an excuse to start studying for TEE now that Taekwondo’s out of the picture. Hope my leg doesn’t fall off or anything, cheerio.

Competition class

On the 21st of October (2007), there’s a tournament coming up for novices. That is, people who haven’t been in tournaments before. There are two divisions- sparring and poomsae (patterns). When it was announced about a month ago, I decided I would give it a miss because of TEE and all that nonsense (:P), but because Mum (against my intentions) signed me up for the Gold Plus membership, I decided to go for it and cram into three weeks what everyone else will cram into seven. I’m going to enter both the sparring and the patterns. If by any chance any of you want to watch (I’m really not expecting much of a response here), let me know and I’ll get you the details.

Oh Do Kwan holds two classes a week that train students for competitions. Nervously, I rocked up to my first one tonight. After a quick warmup, we strapped on chestguards and helmets and partnered off. Wouldn’t you know it, I got Jason. Jason is the first person I ever met in Oh Do Kwan- being a whitebelt, he was assigned to correct my technique for the first few lessons. Jason’s one of the best tournament fighters in the club, so it was an honour to have him show us (a yellowbelt who had also joined that day) what to do. We basically practiced body kicks against one another, full speed, full power hoping the guards would absorb the shock. Even with the chestguards, let me tell you: getting kicked by a blackbelt bloody hurts. I actually learned a few things, and the style of fighting was a little different. The kicks and sequences taught were designed to train explosive speed, and although my technique’s still shite, I’m getting there.

At the end of class, we all sat down huffing and puffing on the side of the dojan. Two people were called up, and I realised to my delight that they were going to spar. Sabomnim (instructor) Graham called everyone up, including me! And who was I pitted against? Jason. Novice vs pro. That, my friends, was one of the defining moments of my life. Surprisingly, I actually managed to land a few hits, but I suspect he was taking it easy because I’d never done it before. Nevertheless, it really does feel satisfying aiming to kick someone and landing a solid blow. The sound, the thwhack as your foot hits the guard… Something special, let me tell you.

After being kicked by Jason for the better part of an hour, I was actually in some pain. I was a little bit worried, but eventually it went away by itself about 15 minutes later. Or maybe I just imagined it was there, because as soon as I started concentrating on kicking, it ceased to hurt. Regardless, being the fool I am, I went to the next class for regular training. Sure, the competition class drained the majority of my chakra and left me a little shaky, and sure Jason said it was a bad idea to train too much, and sure there came a point when my legs hurt too much to kick, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m extraordinarily sore right now, so methinks I’ll be concentrating on, you know, exams and stuff until the Friday competition class.

*yawn* Not too sure why I wrote this entry. Prolly cause it would have taken too long by hand. Night then.

3rd Gup

T’was the morning of grading,
When all through the hall,
Blue belts and red belts
Geared up to maul.

You’re probably sick of these, but if you want to stop reading, feel free to. I graded again today, and alas, double promotion escaped me. I think it’s an unspoken rule that anyone above Blue-2 is not allowed to double promote. Ah well, t’was an excellent day.

On Friday at the end of class, I asked Kwanjangnim Carmella (I’ve decided that, while that’s her formal title, I can never call her that)  if I could buy a red belt. The belt system in Oh Do Kwan is basically White, Yellow, Blue, Red, Black. Each belt has three tiers, 1, 2 and 3, except for black. Black belts have Dan’s. 1st Dan when you first get your bb, 2nd Dan two years later if you’ve earned it, 3rd Dan three years etc. Ross and Carmela both have 7th Dan’s which means they’ve been black belts for 28 years or more. Up until 10:55 this morning, I was Blue-3, aka 4th Gup. So anyway, I ask Kwanjangnim Carmella if I can buy a red belt. She looked puzzled and asked me if I’d graded. I said, No, but I’m about to. She smiled and asked, "What if you fail?" I gave the only answer I could: "I believe I won’t." She smiled and told me the story of a blue belt who had wanted his red belt a day or two early. After giving in and selling it to him, the guy broke his leg the day before grading. Karma, anyone?I will admit, the longer I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I would break my leg before this morning, or maybe during the grading itself, so not only would I break my leg, but I’d fail simultaneously and never have the right to wear a red belt. However, I was fortunate enough to survive the encounter.

My old enemy the Red Board challenged me again. I had trained for that moment. The first time they sprung Mr Red on me, I was not prepared and did not devote myself enough. The next time we faced off, I was over-prepared and stumbled upon myself as I tried to exert too much power. Today I was determined to be single-minded, focused, and strong all at once. Or maybe I just kicked it in the right spot. Either way, I broke the red board with a push kick, and a side kick (yop chagi). I bowed to my shattered opponent  and skipped back to my place quite dreamily.

There were, in all, perhaps 16 blue belts going for grading. 12of them were younger than 8-years-old, two of them were older than 40. That left me with Rebecca, the only person remotely near my height. I take no pride in saying I was better than her. She honestly got scared of me after a little while. I felt very bad and apologised to her after every move (all of which resulted in her lying on the floor with some kind of joint lock). When we were about to start sparring, she said "Please don’t hurt me", and something inside me died. But… Sparring… This was my chance to shine. This was my chance to show how I had mastered the techniques and could apply them. And here was a girl who had asked me not to hurt her. I felt terrible, truly awful, so I did not demolish her, but neither did I take it easy. Later, I asked if she was all right, and she said she was. I hope she forgave me.

All in all, I did all right. Aboubt a 70 point average, which wasn’t spectacular, but I was pleased. I got 80 in my power test (AAAAHAHAHAHA! TAKE THAT MUTHA F-) which was pretty cool, and I’m looking forward to resuming training. What’s that? Mock exams? TEE? Good heavens, you’re right! Better upgrade from three to twelve sessions a week. Okay, maybe not twelve(though that’s how many are available to me), but around  6-8, and an extra 2 if I can still enter that novice tournament (for people who’ve never been in one before) on the 21st… Kickboxing will have to wait until next year… But hey, sure, why not up the ante and train every day. If I were to go to *every* session available to me, it would average about $1.50 per. :D Viva Oh Do Kwan baby.

Anyway, peace out from the red belt!

Where’s Jaxter? (lol)

I have a rival. To be honest, I’ve never had a rival for very long, because they’re always more determined than me to succeed, and will go to further lengths. Call it laziness, generosity or acquiescence. For whatever reasons, my rivals have all overtaken me, and I wonder now if history repeats itself.

New to the Taekwondo class is Dak. Six years ago, Dak was a rank or two below black belt. Present day,  he’s had one lesson (which he arrived late to) and is faster and more ferocious than me. Somewhere along the line, I decided that because I was so new, I could slow down and practice everything to perfection. Seeing Dak spar, he’s gone for explosive speed over perfected technique. I know that in the following weeks, his technique will improve dramatically, and then he’ll have both. Me? I’ll have technique, and a few broken bones. When we sparred, he connected more than one kick, and moved so quickly and erradically that I decided it was in my best interests to play defensive. He’s hotheaded, impatient and very quick. I wonder what belt he’ll get when he shows his record to Master Ross. If he outranks me, I’ll respect him. If he equals me, I will compete with him. If he is below me, I’ll make sure he stays that way.

For now, I’ve realised I’ve slacked off, and with that there realisation I have the power to do something about it. Dak’s speed and recklessness is intimidating, no doubt about it, and he’d probably beat me in a contact sparring match (fight). What do I do about that? Train, I guess. Mmf.

On a side note, Happy Birthday to a very special someone. I am not worthy of doing much more than that.

6th Gup

I had my next grading. My marks fluctuated a bit, and there weren’t any hand skills to test (got 80% last time), but I achieved another double promotion. I was extremely worried I would not, because I injured my right leg four days ago, and even after four days it still hasn’t recovered. I couldn’t kick very well (hence the lack of power) but overall, I can’t complain =) I’m a blue belt now, and I don’t think another double promotion is coming, although I’ll work hard to get one just in case. Not as much of a thrill this time but hey, just one more rung up the ladder.

I also noticed that to be a black belt 1st Dan, I have to have trained for a year or more…

FIE ON!

Is God trying to get me to quit Taekwondo? Is that it? Because if it is, I don’t know how I’ll live. I admit, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to actually be in the dojan, even if I remember the lessons. To actually stand in the building makes my heart race- it happens every time. Then I started training, and I think I was largely happier. Could I sleep better at night? Lately I’ve had much trouble; going to bed at 9 and going to bed at 11 will yield the same amount of rest. I hoped that when I resumed training I’d sleep more. However, such things are not meant to be.

I had a cold shower. I was determined to be above such petty restrictions as cold. Since my concussion on Tuesday, I’ve not been allowed to go to Taekwondo. That makes it a full three weeks since I’ve last trained with others. Liberty told me to take two weeks off, so hang on, why haven’t I gone for a week? Wednesday was chorale! Friday was some stupid conference that was cancelled anyway. Saturday was possible, except my mother didn’t want to pay for a week’s worth of lessons for an hour. My class is not on Thursdays, or Sundays. Today is Monday. I’ve been looking forward to this Monday for a long, long time. And I’ve been waiting, sleeplessly, to go back to Taekwondo. To feel my heart race, to do what I love most. But no. No, Eugene has to call and say he wants to be picked up from uni. Goodbye Mum, see you half an hour after class has started. No, it’s okay, I can go on Tuesday (and face Roy), Wednesday, then ignore Friday Saturday Sunday and Monday because they’re all public holidays. Visb, do you know how much effort I put into re-organising my life around these Taekwondo lessons? A lot! I think about them a dozen times a day! Bah.

What is an enemy?

A question I’ve thought about, but am unable to answer. Do you have to hate your enemies? Then what is hate? I wonder of these things because of a lad named Roy.

Roy’s a blackbelt. Yes, you’re reading another Taekwondo entry. Look, I made a whole new category for it since it seems to be such a pivotal part of my existence as a human being. Anyway, Roy’s a blackbelt, 2nd dan. I think he should be somewhere up in the 5th Dan region though. When I first saw Roy he was pulling off unbelievable reverse spinning back kicks through the air. I can’t really describe them, but his kicks were fast, fluent and flawless. When I actually met Roy, we were practicing Hosinsul – self-defence. I grabbed him and a second later he threw me to the ground. I hit the back of my head on the padded floors, and he told me to break my fall next time. I was offended by his aggression and indifference, but took it as a lesson. The next time I saw him, the same thing was repeated, so when it was my turn I forced him to the floor a little harder than necessary. He called me a psycho because of my fervour, and I hoped he hadn’t meant it. Today he was hostile to me when we were paired up again, but I didn’t take it personally- he was way out of my league.

When it came to sparring, I cycled through half the blackbelts, each of them teaching me something about my technique. Countering left me open to a parry, which was something I honestly hadn’t really thought of. "Dylan"’s heel connected with the side of my head, and Master Ross told me what I was doing wrong. Dylan apologised, and I moved on to Roy. Now this is how it happened. I know that the blackbelts are far too fast for me to actually hit without getting my ass kicked in return, but when I tried to kick Roy in the ribs he had moved in before I could do anything about it. He blocked the kick and punched me in the solar plexis then nailed me in the head with his left leg. Both of the blows connected, although only enough to wind me. This happened over about a second. Master Ross stepped in and said;
"He’s just a yellow belt! Do it again and I’ll kick you."

I left class very bitterly. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to get fast let alone strong enough to beat Roy. I felt his aversion to me long before the blows connected. For now I’ll have to continue training and not dwell on it too much. Peace.

My Criterion

I had my first grading today. Oh Do Kwan is far more scrupulous than Rhee. I admit, I was fastidious in my presentation at all times, even when I was sitting to the side watching everyone else. The grading itself (my part, anyway) was only 10-15 minutes, which surprised me. In groups of a dozen or less, we got up when our name was called and face the three masters who would be judging us. I was a little bit disappointed to be honest- I had expected it to be so much harder, and had mentally trained myself for a much greater challenge. Three blocks and a punch (demonstrated ten times each) was all we did for hand skills. The kicks were slightly harder, but where was the challenge? From there we weren’t tested on our patterns- a series of moves executed one after the other at our own pace- or one step sparring, where your opponent punches and you counter with a particular fashion. I had been training for these rigorously, and felt a little cheated when they weren’t graded. Instead we had self defence. For whitebelts, this means someone grabbing your wrist and you manipulating your way out of it, putting a hold or lock on your opponent. I didn’t do so well in that, lacking the control I might have previously had. Finally we sparred. I made the mistake of trying too hard too quickly, and burned out of energy towards the end.

As we lined up to receive our results, I forced myself to be calm. Although still recovering from my maladies, I yelled louder, and moved faster, than all those in my group. I was always one step ahead of them, which I admit gave some pride to me. Yet, as more and more names of those who passed were announced, I was getting more and more anxious; I didn’t seem to be on the list. Madam Carmella gave out the last certificate and all the white belts bowed- I had not been summoned. I held my breath- I couldn’t have failed, could I? Master Ross announced the nature of an Honours Pass, where the applicant has done well above the average of 65%. My heart raced- could it be me? Two honours passes were given, and still I had not been called. Finally he explained the notion of a Double Promotion- when the applicant has exceeded expectations for his or her particular belt- and called my name. Carmela smiled at me as I shook Ross’ hand hurriedly, and received my certificate. I later noticed it congratulated me on making it to 9th Gup- it looks like they hadn’t forseen a double promotion. I was both complimented and offended at once.

My grading form is shown below. I really will miss the symbol of a white belt- I no longer bear the marks of amateur. Albeit low-ranked, I am no longer considered a complete tyro. Now I’m competing with 8th Gup’s- “yellow belt two’s”. But no, I tell a lie. I’m not competing with 8th Gup’s, I never have been. I’ve been competing with black belts. I always struggle to meet their standards. I’m glad I did well today. Before I went up, I told myself to pretend I was a black belt. When I went up, I forgot entirely. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now- you’re probably bored. Master Ross said that if I train regularly, I might be able to get my blue belt (assuming I get a second double promotion) at the grading next month. Lord knows I’ll try.

~XinTaekwondo grading sheet