Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There's always your first time

Having put so much emotional and physical effort into my black belt testing and interschool tournament, and since there are no classes on Halloween, I felt it was appropriate for me to take a week off from training. I think I earned it! And as I've mentioned, I'm not in a total rush to whip through my 1st degree curriculum as I was to whip through the color belt curriculum.

However, since it was one of the two "dress in your costume" days at TKD, and it was Drew's regular day to go, Drew had class yesterday. He was still a little bit on his high for helping out at the tournament as he had. I was a little pissed at SW, because I asked her if I could put in a star recommendation for Drew based on the fact that he helped as much as he did. She hemmed and hawed, but it came down to her claiming it would set a "precedence" (if I spelled that right), because usually helping out is supposed to be part of the tournament experience. And even at that, she said years ago it would be if they helped out in 10 rings, then they'd get a silver star. Well, Drew helped out with 3 rings, and I don't think we even had 10 rings for the event. I understand her point to a certain degree, but it's not often that a 6 year old Tiny Tiger helps out as well as he does. Almost everyone I know who has a small kid just goes home with their kid as soon as they are done. Drew wanted to stick around and help-- I didn't ask him to do that at all. I even had his Dad come to take him home afterwards when I had to stick around. So, Drew didn't get a star for his efforts. I did reward him with a new Hot Wheels car for his collection for his efforts, so it's not like he went totally without some sort of recognition. But it would've been nice if he had gotten some sort of commendation publically in class or something like that.

Anyway, class was going on as usual yesterday. The kids were getting a little riled up because of their excitement about Halloween. But they learned the first part of their new form, which was pretty easy. I looked at the DVD with the form on it later that night, and elements of it come back pretty quickly. Anyhow, Drew almost got his SJB taken away from him, because he was attacking another kid with it, and wasn't practicing what he was supposed to be doing. Not that the other kid was either. I was a little pissed, because there was SW schmoozing with parents rather than keeping on top of the kids. But I bit my tongue, because I could see what was happening, and I'm not supposed to go and yell at my kid, "Hey, cut that out and focus!" since that's supposed to be the instructor's job. Funny, she wasn't doing her job, and yet I know if had said anything, I'd get the dirty looks from SW to stay out of it. I can't win.

The kids put on their sparring gear. Drew even had his cup on under his one piece costume already! ;-) He was matched up with a boy who did very well at the interschool tournament the other night, and is at least a head taller and a little older than him. J is a fairly gentle, quiet kid. His mother, SV, is in my class, so I know how the family things, and they are a fairly mild mannered family. However, while Drew sometimes doesn't know control, in this case, J didn't remember. Drew does go in full force, but his full force is not as much as J's. And sure enough, it happened for the first time to Drew-- he got kicked in the head. There was no question that contact was made. I saw it, some other parents saw it, the student instructor saw it, and you heard it. JZ, the student instructor acknowledged that there was definitely contact, but she was pretty sure that it was more the shock of it happening that was upsetting Drew than actual injury. Drew was crying big time, so we pulled him out of class. J should have known better, as he's older, and has a higher belt. It wasn't so much that he shouldn't have kicked to the head, it was with the force that he did it. That would be like me kicking the head of an 11 year old. I would still kick an 11 year old in the head, but the point is control so that I don't clobber the kid. J didn't have that. Even Drew said that he felt that J was being too rough, and that HE-- Drew-- was trying to keep control of himself. That was a good thing for him to hear.

I gave Drew two options. I said he can either sit out until they switch partners, so he wouldn't have to spar with J anymore (I think he was afraid of him after that), or he can just sit out completely, but he has to still bow out, etc. He chose the latter, and that was fine. Turns out they only did one round anyway. The kids lined up, bowed out, and they they treated the kids to a piece of candy after class for Halloween. After class, SV came over to check on Drew, so I'm glad she realized that her kid was at fault. After we left, Drew said he had a slight headache, but I'm not sure if it was from the kick or from crying so hard, or just being hungry as it was dinnertime. I assured him that the fact that SV had come over to check on him showed that SHE knew that her son had been too rough, and that knowing her as I do, I was sure that she would talk to J about not being too rough on someone who is a little smaller and younger and a lower color belt than himself. I think Drew felt better about that, but it's one of those reasons that I am glad I'm always nearby in class.

So Drew got his first kick in the head. It's not a pleasant experience for anyone (and yes, even I've been kicked in the head a few times myself), so he'll learn to block, execute the move himself, and focus better on what he's doing. It's a hard lesson to learn. I just feel bad that he had to experience it so soon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just throw me to the lions, why don't 'ya?

When you got to my TKD school, it is not unusual to be thrown to the lions, so to speak, to fend for yourself in a new situation. You won't always be left out to dry for TOO long, but oh, it's really hard. And being that I am a newly minted 1st degree, SW saw it fit, as mentioned in my last post, to do just that tonight.

Tonight we had our first Interschool Tournament for the year. I think it was a fairly decent turnout, considering it was Friday night and all. Normally Drew and I have Cub Scouts on Fridays, but since we didn't have a meeting scheduled for this week, we were able to participate. And participate, we did! It ended up being a very busy night for both of us.

I can't say a lot about Drew, because I was unable to watch his ring. SW had said that she needed to start training some more judges, and now that Sandy and I are black belts, we were being drafted. Sandy didn't come until later (as she had to bring her daughter with her), and Drew's ring and another ring were at the same time. So, since I couldn't do Drew's ring (bias as his mom-- you'd know I'd want to give him a high score!), I was wrangled into being a corner judge - for the first time!-- in a color belt ring that was comprised of Drew's peers. Most of the kids from his classes are a little older than him (by 1-3 years), and as he is not 7 years old yet, and they all are, the requirements are different. Drew, being a Tiny Tiger, only has to learn half the form, and he can have assistance with it from the instructor. WELL, at least according to Drew, he was awesome, and even did a great SJB freestyle. ;-) He was very proud of his 2 medals, and his new red fabric star for his uniform. He told JC (who came in case Drew didn't want to stick around all night waiting for me) that he wanted to stay and help, so Drew asked SW, and she said sure. Now, again, remember, he's only 6. So, they put him to work to be a scorekeeper during the sparring matches. They have flip chart-type things to show the score in the sparring rounds, and his job was to work the flip chart. Sometimes it can go pretty fast and furious, but he was able to keep up, surprisingly enough. In many respects, he was doing a Leadership job, even though he's not in leadership. I'm still not ready to do that. I still don't think he has the maturity for it yet, and I don't have the money for it either. Anyhow, he was really great, and he really enjoyed it. At the end, as they were handing out the medals to the competiting kids, he would help hand out the medals and doing the handshakes. I think he felt very important! :-)

But anyway, I did miss him competing. I'm sure he was fine, but let me tell you, he couldn't be any worse than some of his peers. Some of them definitely knew what they were doing. There were kids that were up there, older than him, who didn't have a clue! And they were competing for a rank placement, vs. Tiny Tigers all get some sort of reward for participating. Oh my gosh. Well, it was difficult enough. I never gave higher than an 8. I kinda kept most of my scores towards the middle. I think the lowest score I gave was a 4, because the kid didn't even know his form. I don't know that he choked from nerves. Our center judge, BP, even got up and ended up doing the whole thing with him. So, I didn't want to give him a zero. You'd really have to screw up to get a zero. Thus, in forms, I was a "hand" judge. Most of the kids were doing the same form as me, so I knew it well. It was truly subjective. The kids who seemed to have a very good sense of what they were doing got the winning ranks, and it showed. During the weapons part, it's all freestyle, so I didn't have to judge just one aspect of it, like "hands". Again, there were kids that did some nice stuff, some that had a clue but it wasn't polished, and then there was the kid who just wagged his BME back and forth for 20 seconds (because that's all you get). He didn't get a big score from me either. Oy. Sparring is where it's interesting. It's very different when you are on the sidelines sizing up the competition, vs. having to actually make the call! It's a lot harder than it looks. Half the time, someone else would call, "BREAK!", but I saw the hit, and I'd be able to make the call anyway. I was advised that when in doubt, either do a "no see" or "no points" if I'm not sure. It was a good competition with that, but again, you could see who was stronger and who wasn't. It was quite the experience.

After judging in that ring, MY ring was up. It was a menagerie of sorts. There were technically 4 different divisions in 1 ring, and even then, they combined us to be 2 rings in one. Three people were white/orange/yellow color belts, but all different ages. The other group was Sandy and myself, same age, same division. The W/O/Ys did pretty well for a first time out in the ring. Only one did weapons, which was good. I was always glad that I had started competing and testing with weapons early on, because now that I HAVE to do weapons, it's second nature. I don't even think about it. But of course, the competition was heated, as usual, with Sandy and I. For either of us, the worst we could do was 2nd place, after all. Nonetheless, I have to say that I really thought that Sandy would have the upper hand in most cases, seeing that she's generally more comfortable with the forms and her weapon form. I lucked out, because since I had just gotten my black belt a mere 2 days ago, I was allowed to do a freestyle. WELL, if that's the case, gotta bring out the award winning routine, even if I haven't dusted that off in 2-3 months! It was a little rusty, but I got about 99% of it out before time was called, and improvised the end. But first, she and I did the same form. Hers did look a lot smoother, there is no question of that, and I figured it might be close. I believe it was a close score - only a difference of 1 or 2 points. Weapons the same, but I didn't do that math that quickly in my head. As I said, I managed well, and I was sure that Sandy would smear me with her weapons finesse. She didn't catch one swing, but it wasn't as major as what ES was doing the other night (not by a longshot!). I think that's what might have been detrimental. Otherwise, it was a flawless routine. Then the sparring. I took the opportunity to break in my new black gear, and as much as I protested to SW that I thought the shin guards were too big, they were actually much better than the old ones I had before, I must admit. It was another really close match. Sandy made me work for those points right up until the end. She's getting faster all the time, and she is a mean puncher and can strike at all the right times, whereas I really depend on my kicks to get me through. Well, the move that did the trick was one of my attempted kicks to the head, my signature "move". Hey, gotta use my height to my advantage when I can, right? Well, this particular kick sailed directly over her head, and the judges called it a 2 pointer to me, as if I had actually made contact with her head. Their reasoning was that even though I hadn't made contact, she didn't make any attempt to block it either, hence the usual 2 points that are usually awarded for head kicks. That's what put me over the top. Otherwise, like I said, she made me work for those points right until the end. In the end, Sandy got 1st for forms, and I got 1st in sparring, as well as in weapons. I wasn't sure about the weapons, so it was a surprise! Later, Sandy was the solo XMA adult. I know she wanted me to do it, but I don't have a routine. I'd be purely improvising, and frankly, since she's a kick-butt juggler that incorporates that into her routine, I knew I couldn't compete with that. So, she got her other 1st place win in XMA weapons. :-) Maybe I really do have to start putting some XMA time in. I don't have to do anything that long, but I want to do something good. I half-joked that she can do XMA weapons, and I'll do open hand, and then we'll both be champions. ;-) I do also have to say that the other impressive thing about Sandy, that was especially evident in XMA, but also in everything she does, is that she's a lot more atheltic than people would guess her to be. If you look at the photo of us in my last post, you can see that neither of us are exactly looking like Elle McPhearson or Heidi Klum. You wouldn't think that two "fluffy" women like ourselves would actually be fairly decent martial artists and do well in competition. Well, Sandy has this forward roll in her XMA routine that I don't think I would even get close to attempting for fear of ending up with my face planted in the mats. Sure enough, she went to do it, with no hands put down, and did that flying forward roll right in front of the judges, and she sailed through the air and rolled up as if nothing had happened. It was the smoothest thing I've seen in a long time! So even if she had other adult competition, she would've blown them away. She's really awesome at what she does.

After that, there was one more ring that she and I were drafted to help out with, namely the teen/young adult black belt guys. This time, I was the corner judge in charge of feet. It was a slightly playful ring, as the guys had been judging all night, and it was late and we were all tired. Sandy kept score, so she got extra practice with that. It ended well, and it was late, so we decided to just go home.

It was a long night, but a good one. While I'm proud of my competition accomplishments, it was certainly a trial by fire having to help judge in two rings tonight. It really is a lot harder than it looks! If it was just judging like in testing, that's a little easier, as you don't have to give points. You just have to rate if it was excellent, good, fair, poor or just plain awful. Even in sparring, you judge that way, not in how many points you get. I guess now that I have a little experience under my belt, it'll be that much easier when I go to certify as a corner judge. We'll see. It'll just take some more practice, I'm sure.

But I think the one thing I'm most proud of, not how I held up during my first judging rings, or how I did in competition, was how Drew was tonight. He even told me he didn't cry tonight when he only got a bronze medal (all the kids in his ring got bronze medals), and the fact that he wanted to help, and he helped well, and maintained his composure and acted very mature in this whole thing. JC felt that he needs to be rewarded for this at home (we have a "chip" system where he earns chips for good behavior, and felt that Drew should get an extra chip, to which I agreed), but also at TKD. He already earned a red star on his uniform for participating. But I can tell you, he did more than any other kid his rank there, and he was the youngest one doing it. He helped with scorekeeping in *3* - count 'em! - *3* rings. That's really great! So, I'm going to see if he can get at least some sort of extra star for his participation in helping tonight. I'm sure that's not a problem, I just want to know which star is appropriate. I'm really proud of him. And I think as a result, he's taking more interest in doing this. He's already asking to do a regional tournament so that he can get a trophy instead of a medal. ;-) I made no promises, as the next regional is an hour away, and we'd have to be there VERY early in the morning. It's a long day. His dad would have to take him home after a while. It's literally an all day thing, from 8 AM to about 6 PM. I'm not sure if I'd be able to get away with leaving early-- I might-- since I have a little one, and technically, I wouldn't be certified as a corner judge yet. Although, I could be drafted for score/time keeping. :-S We'll have to see. Anyway, I digress. Drew is whom I'm proud of most. It's days like this that it's great to be a mom. :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Behold the Black Belt amongst ye!


Yes, you read the subject heading and the prior post correctly. I am now, officially, a 1st degree black belt DECIDED, otherwise designated in the ATA as a "1BD". Oh yeah!

Now, different practices/styles of martial arts have different timetables and methods to teach and have you earn your 1st dan/black belt. For me, it was two years, but it was a LONG two years. Last night was the culmination of all that blood, sweat, tears, pain, and injury that it took to get me there. But more on that in a minute.

There were two graduations last night. Let's do the one that came first, first. Drew finally achieved his camo belt, which was a long time coming! Had he been taking classes twice a week when he started (and before SW changed her policy), and he hadn't taken two summer breaks as well as a break last spring, he'd be a lot farther ahead in his belt ranking. But, the journey towards your first black belt is not a race, of which I am constantly reminded. It might be better in the end to let him go at his own rate, and that's fine. In the long run, he will really have great basic skills instead of okay ones by the time he's ready for his black belt testing. But that's still a long way off right now. Last night, he sealed the deal that he is officially in the intermediate color belt ranks.

Generally, I think he did well. He behaved well during the testing for the most part, so that was good. He's far from perfect, and yes, even with help, he still goofed up the half-form he had to do. But, his improved behavior in class and during the testing were the real progress made this cycle, and hopefully he'll continue to improve with that. And he's only 6, after all. As long as he has the concepts down, he's good to go. I will say this...I saw his scores for his sparring, and after you see the video, while he does get a little overly swirly, if he had made actual contact (graduation sparring is supposed to be no contact), he would have kicked the other kid's butt! He kept cornering the kid, and such, and yet I saw Drew had the lower score! The other kid barely kicked, and was constantly backing up, rarely on the offensive. I dunno...all that counts is that he passed, and he earned his belt, right?

So, onto the first video! First, Drew's form. Drew is the one who's starting in the center.

Drew doing 1/2 of Chung Jung 2

Drew did do a weapons form, namely a Jahng Bang/Bo staff freestyle, but it wasn't that great. It's optional to do weapons at his level, so he got a silver star for his uniform for doing it. But I had to get rid of something on the camera, as there wasn't enough memory to hold everything, so I dumped that.

Then, onto the sparring. Drew is the little one who starts on the right side of the screen.

Drew sparring

Then, when it was all said and done, a very happy boy with his new camo belt!
New Camo Belt! Yeah!
New Camo Belt! Yeah!

Now, onto the big event. My black belt testing.

It was just another rainy evening here in NJ, and your normal full house when it came to an adult/teen testing...
Room full of testers
(I'm in the farthest back corner on the left)

Everyone had the usual course of having to show forms (poom-sae), weapons, sparring, and if needed, board breaks. I was very lucky to have my dear friend Sandy (and her daughter J) come not only to support me, but to be one of my official photographers/videographers. (My husband JC had the same assignment, but he didn't know what he was supposed to photograph as much as she did, so her video came out better overall.) So all video credits go to her!

I had to go at the same time as a very young 2nd degree, and ES, who is a 1st degree from my Wednesday morning classes. Now, in the first video, you see ES in the front/left, and I'm the huge Amazon in the back/right. So, here we go!

Chung Jung 2

Next, we did weapons. Now, all I had to do was drills, so it's nothing that exciting. But what's interesting to note, and I mentioned this on my regular blog, is that ES -- who's in the same position as before, is about 1-2 cycles ahead of me, thus she's already a 1BD. She's had weeks and weeks to learn her weapons form. She never did weapons at testings until she HAD to do so. So, here's the thing-- Sandy taught me the form that ES is doing in the video (not that you see it all) just yesterday afternoon for the first time. I learned it in about 10-15 minutes. Now, considering that, if I practiced yesterday afternoon, even *I* would have done better than ES, who's had weeks to practice. She kept dropping her ssahng jeh bang/numchakas, or not catching them. Well, as JC said to me, "I thought black belts were supposed to do better." As I explained to him, there are some like Sandy and myself who put a lot of time and effort to learn the curriculum and get all or as many of the nuances of what we have to know at that particular level, and there are those who only work on it during class, and do the minimal effort to get the minimum accomplished. And it shows. And it definitely shows in this video (and you don't see all of her weapons form).


Next, we had sparring. Now, you may hear the judge for this event, the blond gal on the right (who happens to be a World Champion in XMA and a 4BD), tell us, "Show me your best moves, show me techniques you learned for this level, yada yada yada." This is always what I've done, but here I really had my chance to prove it. For me, being that this was graduation sparring, thus no contact, it was hard for me not to make contact. And as Sandy would attest, I've done graduation sparring where there's been PLENTY of contact, and been fine. But this was ES I was up against, so I knew even with no contact, I'd be fine. I'm the one in the back of the room closer to the wall when it starts...

I swear that ES is doing the foxtrot or something during this. The camera cut off before we were done, but I got one good kick to the head where I lightly tapped her head. Oh, I wish it had been captured! There was no question that while I am the lower ranked one, I had more technique, if I do say so myself. ES was doing nothing but essentially dancing around. She should be able to beat me, but no. I did happen to get a sneak peak at our scores today at work, and at least SM (the judge) took note of that, because I score in the "excellent" range whereas ES was in the "poor" range. But ES still passed her progression testing (it wasn't a midterm, but you still have mini-midterms, and that's all she had).

We had some time to rest, which was good, because even after doing some extra control in sparring (it's a lot easier to actually do a full kick with contact than not), you're still tired. I was able to cool down just enough, and watch everyone else. There were only two of us who had to do board breaks. The first was a kid from my instructor's class who was going for his 2nd degree recommended ranking. He got his breaks in the first shot. I'm glad he went first, because just as we were being told that we were doing board breaking, that's just when the butterflies the size of condors started flapping in my stomach. So, then it was my turn. Here you go:

Board Break

Now, this is what happened, if you can't exactly understand what happened. My combination was a roundkick with my left foot, and then a reverse side with the right foot. I broke the roundkick with no problem. But I didn't get the right one because I didn't have the speed on it. When I went to set up for it again, since you have 3 tries, I was a little disoriented. Call it adrenaline or what have you. I am used to always doing that reverse sidekick in the combination, not "free standing". So, SW-- the one giving me directions, is pointing out that I was not positioning myself correctly for the break. I didn't feel I needed another practice, and just wanted to get it over with. Thankfully, it broke with that second attempt. I wasn't happy about that, because it meant less total points, but it was better than taking 3 shots at each board like at my last testing. At least this time, I had set myself up for success.

Finally, everyone lined up again, but this time by rank and not by height. I've worked my way towards the middle a little more now. After all the color belts received their belts, it was my turn-- I was the last to get a new belt. When I ran up, instead of just polite applause, I got a few whoops and hollers too, being that it was the people that knew me well and whom I've trained with all this time. SW had me take off my old belt, as she wrapped the double length belt around me.
Tying it on for the 1st time
Tie one on!

After she completed tying the belt on, I had to face the entire group, and she introduced me as the newest black belt to join the ranks. Then everyone bowed to me! Woo-hoo! I always thought that when that moment happened, I'd probably start crying. To be honest, I almost did, but I was able to choke back the tears. I got lots of high-fives as I went back to my spot in the ranks, and after we were dismissed, lots of congratulations and well wishes and hugs from many of my classmates who have supported me throughout the whole process. It felt really good. My family was there, my friends were there. Sandy was even kind and thoughtful enough to bring me roses, which were a big surprise! I was especially happy and grateful that she came. Ever since she and I became friends last year when she returned to the ATA, albeit spending the majority of her time at the other school initially, she made it more fun because there weren't any other adult close to or at my rank doing this. She came along, and she started out a little bit behind, but due to some workings by her main instructor at her school, she's about 1/2-1 cycle ahead of me, which is fine. I'm not that far behind. Our testing cycles just run differently, so she's about a month ahead of me. No matter! It would have been a very dull second year of learning without her being my tournament competition, and challenging me along the way to do better, and to feel okay that I didn't need to be like ES or some of the other ol' biddies that are there just muddling through. She made it fun when it could've been really dull.

So, now that we were both black belts, she wanted a photo! Of course!
Me and Sandy
Two Black Belt Buddies

And, I had to make sure that I had the obligatory photo with the woman who got me through all this, my instructor SW:
Me and SW
Me and SW

(Yes, I am that Amazonian height, and yes, even at her petite height she has a wicked reverse hook kick you don't want to get hit with.)

So there you go. And yes, I understand this is not the end, but the beginning. I've made it through the rigors of the color belts, and now have the true basics to be able to move onto bigger and better, as well as more challenging things. One thing I can say though now...I'm not in any rush for my 2nd degree belt! It would take another 2 years, if I went at the same pace as I have now, to get to that. I might take that long, or longer. There are plenty of progress and midterm tests between now and then, but I won't be changing rank, so no big deal. Drew is a little upset, as in jealous, that I have my black belt. But I've explained to him that he's taken breaks, and kids take longer to learn this stuff, but he'll catch up, I'm sure. He told me he'll have a 100th degree belt eventually, of which I have no doubt. ;-)

What's next you ask, other than continue in training? Well, there's an interschool tournament tomorrow, and I will have to practice my new weapons form quickly. I'm not out to win necessarily. I might, I might not, no big whoop. The worst I'll do is second place, after all, since Sandy is my competition! ;-) There's a regional tournament in November as well, but I'll have more time to get the practice in by then. But at least I'll be in a new echelon of competition ranking - 1st degree black belt, 30-something women. Oh yeah! Both Sandy and I are in that category now. I'll only be in that category until Worlds in June, and then I'll be in the 40-somethings since my 40th is in August. That will hopefully not have too many competitors! In either case, we'll both be up against some of our old contenders as well as some new ones, and being that we're all black belts, it's going to be a lot tougher, I suspect.

SW also approached both Sandy and I about certifying to judge in tournaments. You don't have to certify as an instructor to do so, but being that she's the RCT, I wouldn't be surprised if getting more judging help, now that Sandy and I are now eligible as black belts, is what she's after. Since I can't afford to bump up my certification/collar rank right now (both financially and, well, I haven't had the time to really review and cram for the cert tests), the judging one shouldn't be so bad. SW said she'd probably have a certification seminar and testing in December, and we could do that so we could qualify to get our judging chevrons (long patches put on our sleeves) as color belt corner judges. Both Sandy and I have done time and score keeping at both the interschool and regional levels, as well as competed, so we're ahead of the game in understanding the basics already. We'll see how that pans out.

After the tournament tomorrow, I'm taking a week's rest. We don't have classes on Wednesday due to Halloween, but maybe I'll go in that Saturday. We'll see. I think I need a small break.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



...more details later....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Less than 24 hours now...

I have to keep a level head. I've been telling many people that tomorrow is the day I get my black belt. For the non-martial arts person, I can say that. But for all of you who read this regularly (and thank you for doing so, by the way), you know that's not the deal in reality. Tomorrow is the day I probably will get my black belt. There is no guarantee. It is all up to me, in the end, and very often, it comes down to the boards. If I don't break them, no dice. I've been able to do it, so I've been confident, but there's always a first time due to nerves or what have you. So yeah, I'm starting to get a little nervous, although in theory I shouldn't be. I know the material. I know what I have to do in order to get the job done. I know I can do what's expected of me. Is it that I'm nervous to do it in front of people? Not so much. Yes, my husband is coming to watch for the occasion. He rarely goes to testings. I think the last time he tried to go with Drew in tow was for my camo belt, and that was a disaster. He didn't even see me receive the belt because Drew was acting up. Drew now has instructions to go play in the back office if he's too bored. And the large majority of the people who will be watching are the same people who have watched me test through the ranks, who practice with me and learn with me on a weekly basis, so I know I've got a lot of support.

I have a lot of things going in my favor. And for the most part, I am confident that I can follow through on what I have to do. I've trained for this for two years. I've made adjustments to ensure success. So why, now at the almost literal and figurative 11th hour am I starting to have doubts and get nervous? I don't know. Maybe it's because I've seen people try and not succeed. I've come close to not succeeding myself a few times, but did by the skin of my teeth. Maybe it's just because I know that perhaps in grounding myself and finding some humility in what I have to do tomorrow, that is setting me for the path of being a true black belt. Humble, yet confident in many ways, and knowing I still have a long way to go, even though I've come very far.

Send lots of prayers/good karma/good thoughts my way. I'm going to need it, I think.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Getting closer

At this writing, I am about 3 days away from testing. I'm not really nervous as of yet. I'm sure the butterflies will kick in just as I get there, I'm sure.

I haven't written like I usually do as I had a TKD related injury. I'm fine now, but it took a few days to heal so that I could type without it hurting! I'll explain in a moment.

We didn't have the usual Wednesday morning class, as SW was flying out to Fall Nationals that day, so I only had the evening classes, which was fine. Drew had his Wednesday class, and they did a practice graduation after doing some suicide drills. ;-) That's right, get them good and tired first! Drew was the first one up, as he was the only real Tiny Tiger, meaning that being the age he's at, he can still do only half the form and with the assistance of an instructor. Once he turns 7, he doesn't have that luxury. If he knew it all by himself, and the whole thing, then he could be eligible to go into the Karate for Kids program, and test like a 7 year old, but seeing as this is the first testing he's done in many months, I haven't pushed it. So, I watched as he did his half form with RA by himself in front of everyone, being the youngest one there, and the lowest ranked. Let me tell you, while it wasn't perfect, it was a lot better than I thought it would be! He did a great job! He still had some problems with his reverse hook, but considering that's an advanced move for a Camo belt (as it's a red belt/black belt recommended move), I think it's easily forgiven. He didn't wiggle or step out of place from where he should be. Later, after the older kids did it, RA commented to all ove them on how they were more wiggly and out of place than the 6 year old, and they should be able to do it as well as him, if not better. So Drew was actually getting a compliment and setting the example, which made him rather proud. I wasn't able to watch his weapons routine, but I assume he was fine. He plans to do his JB during graduation, and since it's optional and a freestyle (meaning he can't make any mistakes), he can get an extra fabric star for his uniform, which would be cool.

I took double classes, and we did practice graduation too. What was fun was that PS was back in class after a long absence, as she is hoping to start back regularly soon. Hooray! She's a lot of fun in class. We did some drills and such too first, and afterwards, we had NK and EL "judging" us. I am pleased to say that a lot of the finer details of things that I've been working on have paid off. They didn't feel I really had to do any extra tweaks at all, that I had nailed it. With my BME, I had to fine tune the "snake" move, but otherwise, it's good. It's just a hard move to do in the air vs. doing it with another person. We didn't do sparring, but being the only person who really needed practice with a board break, I did it. Got both breaks on the first try! Yay! During instructor class, we worked on teaching each other how to do different weapons forms. Since PS and I are closest in rank, even though there's a big of a chasm at the moment, I had drills to review with her, so I was teaching her the SJB drills and BME drills. I think she got the concepts pretty well, although I can't say how good a teacher I am with some of the more complicated moves. Part of what makes it difficult for her is that being that she works out from her sport wheelchair, there are still some things that are difficult because the chair gets in the way. I think one tip I gave her will help as she practices. It involved the SJB, and it was one I learned the hard way, but I think it will benefit her. She was accidentally clobbering herself with hers (thank goodness they are foam covered!), and she thought the chair was part of the problem. Well, the chair was, but the other thing that I learned, because I used to clobber myself in the head, and I have no chair, is that you have to keep your elbow up all the time. Kind of like doing it all the time with chicken wings. Seriously, I saw almost immediate improvement. I think with some practice, she'll have it in no time. :-)

I had to practice board breaking again. If I remember, I got the roundkick off in the first try, but not the reverse. I think it's that the kids were holding it too high and too far back. I did get it on the second try. So, I will have to make sure that my holders are not afraid, and they have to trust that I'm putting the boards in the right place. I know I'm tall, but they think my waist is about 5 feet off the ground, and I'm 5'10"! My waist isn't that high up, really, even if I do have long legs.

Then it happened. I, in turn, was helping hold a board for someone else, namely BU, who is probably the biggest guy in the school, and a 2nd degree. I am usually paired up with him often in classes, so I know his nature is to be gentle and not Mr. Macho, but he gets the job done too. So, I'm holding the board with another guy, and BU is doing some sort of reverse jump kick. My hands were placed (from my perspective behind the board) at the upper left and lower right corners. We locked the board out, and I know I locked my arms correctly. Then it happened. WHAM! Then some of the most intense pain I've had in a very, very, very long time eminating from my left hand. BU missed-- he hit the top left hand corner very hard, and it stung the tip of my left index finger, but worse, the impact severely injured the meaty part of my palm under my thumb of that hand. I had to walk away because I was in so much pain, and was trying to just calm myself down and not start crying in front of everyone, because no matter how much it hurt, even if it was broken, crying would be really embarassing, y'know? The pain radiated up and down my arm, especially between my wrist and elbow, and I couldn't get ice on it anytime soon. We did some joint lock stuff, but fortunately, my partner was sweet little MC, and she was patient and understanding that I couldn't do the drills completely, just one handed (literally). We bowed out, and I went to try to change my gi pants to my jeans, and I had to keep from screaming because I could barely move my hand. I could wiggle fingers, so I knew that was a good sign, but again the pain was so bad that I was tempted to drive straight to the hospital, which isn't far from there. I didn't. I just went home, and my husband had to help me with the littlest tasks. I iced it, wrapped it up loosely in an ace bandage, and loaded up on painkillers/stuff to help with the inflammation. By morning, it was a little better, and the swelling had gone down. I was getting more use of my hand, but it was very clear the following day, and especially two days later that I had this big black bruise on that meaty part of my hand. Thank goodness I'm a righty! The bruise is still there, but it's definitely getting better, thankfully. I have full use of my hand again, and it's just a little sore to the touch. I can make a fist again, and I'm not afraid of using it in sparring now! ;-) So, that was a little traumatic, but I'm glad that nothing is broken, and it's just a bad bruise.

So, tomorrow Drew gets one more practice class in, and I have one more practice class on Wednesday morning. After last Wednesday's reviews of how I was doing, I should feel pretty confident that I'll be fine. I just have to stay calm, and relax, because I know the material very well. I know what I have to do, and I just have to stay focused. I'll probably still get sick to my stomach before I start anyway. But I have to keep my eyes on the prize-- that long awaited, much anticipated, strongly earned 1st degree black belt.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Now, if we could only have him do that OUTSIDE of the do-jahng

Yesterday's class for Drew went okay. I didn't see all of it (partially staying out of the way as usual), but I asked him if he punched anyone in the face during sparring, and he said no, but he did get too rough and backed off when told to do so. Still breaking with a palm heel, but for now, that's okay. Seemed to be following along, and I didn't hear anyone scolding him as much, or at all for that matter, so that's got to be good.

So, we are working with a counselor, as Drew has some behavioral issues that my husband and I are just having a really difficult time with him, and frankly, I'm burnt out. (You can read most of the gory details at my regular blog, if you are that interested. But fair warning-- it isn't pretty. Not for the faint of heart.) However, Drew has made some improvements at TKD in his behavior in class. There were times in the past whereby he'd have a meltdown and one thing would lead to another and he'd be kicked out of class. This year, there were a few occasions where he would just retract himself from class, and then go back in when he calmed down. Huge improvement. My husband, surprisingly, attributed that to the fact that the instructors there have known him, and they don't put up with any crap of any kind, even though they can be understanding too, and as a result, his respect towards authority is better there than anywhere-- even at home. So, even when the counselor is saying that perhaps we should take one class a week away as a possible punishment for behavior either at school or home, hubby agreed with me, and turned the idea around, that it was better that he stay in there, for the reason that it set a good standard for him. Hmm. While I always knew that TKD -- or any martial art-- would help to instill discipline, focus and respect in kids, I didn't think it was actually getting through to my kid entirely. Perhaps it actually is after all. It might be slow in getting there, but I guess it is, if even my hubby, who rarely sees Drew in action until recently, detected it.

Who knew?

Now, the trick will be, for him to respect and respond better at home and at school, and with the rest of the world. That's the bigger part of the picture. Nope, he can't stop or quit now. He might be on a roll.

One week until black belt testing, and I just want to get it over with and done!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm ready! Promotion! I'm ready, edy, edy, edy....

(I think I watch WAY too much Spongebob Squarepants. I've seen the movie and almost every episode since time began. So that subject heading is supposed to be a la Spongebob, like in the Spongebob Movie. It also helps that Spongebob is a martial artist, you know, in kah-rah-taaaaay. ;-) Check out the end of this post for a little Karate Spongebob entertainment.)

Not much going on with TKD right now. I only took one class yesterday, as I was under the impression I had to go to this important Cub Scout meeting for the den leaders (like myself). The other Tiger den leader was under the same impression. It turns out that it was not a den leaders' meeting, but rather a meeting of the Pack people, and neither the other Tiger Leader or I needed to be there! Oy. So my usual triple threat of TKD classes could have still been possible. Oh well. I know for next time.

The Wednesday morning class is actually increasing! We usually have about 4 or 5 people there at most, and yesterday, we had about twice that! We have 4 W/O/Y moms now, and then there's Sandy, ES and myself as the 1st degrees (well, I'm close enough to that to consider myself that), and yesterday, 3- 2nd degree black belts, of which it was one guy! (He's a dentist that sometimes has the time to come in on Wednesday mornings. He's a hoot!) So that makes 10! I think we usually have another "player" or two in the group, but it was a big turnout! I think SW liked that, and everyone there is nice. It's nice, especially with the newbies, to have some new blood in the group, even though they are established moms at the school (their kids are all higher ranked than them). In doing drills across the floor, we concentrated in rechambers. While I think I'm usually good about doing them, it didn't hurt to be more conscientious about them. We then had to do some stretches on our side while laying on the floor, where we had to practice sidekicks from there. I had the right idea, however, after 20+ years of dance, I have way too much turnout, so as a result, when correcting my foot position, it felt like she was twisting my foot off counterclockwise. OUCH! It seems that I have to relearn to do everything turned in more for better foot position. I understand why, but for me, that's like the equivalent of me walking with my toes pointing at each other. It hurts! It took me years to stop walking like a duck and walk with my feet going straighter. Oh well. Between chambers and foot positioning, I have things to think about.

I did practice my form, and SW observed. She saw how I corrected some of my hand and foot timing from last week. She said if I could add these new tweaks with the chambering and foot positioning, I'd be dead on, both for testing and competition soon afterwards. But I've got what I need, and the tweaks I'm doing are just to perfect the form more. It's fine right now, so that's good. Weapons are the same, or at least she didn't correct anything with that. I was the only one there that really had to practice for board breaks. Everyone had a turn, but I went last because of having to do a double break. One thing that was cool was PT, the guy in class, practiced doing his axe kick. However, as a guy, he has to go through *2* boards as a 2nd degree instead of just one. Well, because I was the tallest female, guess who had to hold the boards with SW? Yup. Then my turn came. People thought it odd, but I chose two boards with nasty knotholes in them. Why? Trying to save the good wood for testing. ;-) I didn't break them on the first try, but did on the second try. And in the process, it turned out that the knothole defect on one board, the one I did my reverse sidekick on, had a really ugly defect on the interior of the board where it had been rotting. Ugh! As a result, it broke very crookedly, and I scrape the outside of my achilles heel on it. I thought it was just a little surface scrape until it started bleeding. Good thing there's band-aids at the school. It got under control with that, but the little spot still smarts today. Oh well. At least it's not the actual bottom of my heel!

Drew is still doing alright. I mean, I know he'll pass with help. Yesterday, he said he was tired and that's why he'd goof off. He was doing so badly compared to the others, and they were all older that I thought he'd been mistakenly been put in the wrong group. I was told (after asking) that they had actually split the group into two sections, and the back section of the group that I couldn't see were the kids that had no clue about the form, vs. those who did. So, Drew had a least a clue, even if it was incorrect, and it was with all the older kids who were much higher belts! So, in that respect, it was good. When JC picked him up last night, he said Drew was in good, or at least decent, spirits, so that's good. I think getting him back into TKD is a good thing, especially now that he's in a higher level class than before. It was too boring for so long for him. At least now he's being challenged again.

So that's the summary of the week. I'm ready for my promotion, for sure. I'm ready, I'm ready, promotion, promotion, I'm ready....

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Keeping it all in the family

This week has been a busy one as far as my TKD activities go. Wednesday was the crazy day, as usual, whereby I cram one class in the morning, and two at night. Drew had his class too. I also went to a black belt testing at another ATA school, which was interesting as well. Oh, and a Joint Lock seminar as well. So let's begin, shall we?

There's nothing in particular that I can remember about my classes, to be honest. It was pointed out that I didn't have proper hand-foot timing on 2 or 3 moves that were after the jump kicks and the reverse hook kicks. Easily fixed. I haven't watched myself, but I feel like as long as I can stabilize my knee with my knee brace, and not be too tired, I can do well with my form. And the sparring and weapons. Not the prettiest thing, doing BME drills. BORING! But, they are what they are, and I think I got a slight correction in one part, but again, it's an easy fix. The board breaks are coming along nicely. In the morning, I only practiced the reverse sidekick, but I still had to practice the round kick without the board, just so I had the rhythm of it all. That was fine. In the first evening class, I got to practice both breaks, and oddly enough, the roundkick break didn't do it on the first crack, but the reverse sidekick did! Go figure. (I did get the roundkick on the second try. No biggie.) Instructor class was more practice, and learning/helping the younger ones learn about how to discipline other kids in class who are being goofy. I think for BU and I in talking to the kids, it's easier simply because we are not only adults, but parents, so it's a little easier for us to come up with something.

I didn't pay any attention to Drew's class, just because I think he needs to do things on his own. I did ask SW if that class went better than Monday's, and she said generally, yeah, it did. The only thing Drew really needs to work on is not punching kids in the face when he spars. Good thing they have face shields on now! Even so, a)it's an illegal sparring move, b)Drew shouldn't be so rough, and c) it means Drew has to learn to control better, and that comes with time and coaching. He's only 6, after all! He also forgets his own strength sometimes, and the adrenaline kicks in, so again, he needs to learn control. It will be great to see him doing his form in a few weeks.

Thursday, I had to opportunity to go watch a testing at a different ATA school. EL was testing for her 3rd degree, and since SW is only one rank higher than that, she is not allowed to supervise the testing for that. So SW's instructor, KC, has to do it. KC's school is actually closer to me, and since I had the evening free, I could actually go see. What was interesting was that the testing was black belts only, whereas the teens and adults at my school, no matter the rank, all come at the same time. It was also done where several things were going on at once, and somehow it still took almost 3 hours! EL was the only one who was testing for 3rd degree. She did well on her forms, weapons and sparring, but unfortunately did not break her boards. We think that the main reason is that she is still adjusting from having done all her breaking from her walker (she has CP, in case you didn't know), to doing it in a wheelchair instead. And she just started that a couple of weeks ago. She was brave, even though we knew her disappointment, but she gets to try again at the next testing in about 8 weeks. PS and I had come for moral support, and we noticed a pattern. When Sandy went to test for her 1BD, it got cancelled and she didn't get her belt that night. On the new testing night, then she got it, but PS and I weren't there. With EL not able to break that night, PS and I teased that perhaps we shouldn't come to the next testing, because maybe we were a jinx or something. Oh well. (There were several others who didn't break for their ranks either, so she wasn't alone in that. But one little boy cried, and I felt bad for him.)We all went out to dinner afterwards, and had a nice time hanging out with SW, who assisted at the testing, and a former instructor at our school who used to be EL's physical therapist and brought her into TKD in the first place. So it was a nice night nonetheless.

Today was something a little different. As I said, I've been keeping it all in the family. Today was the joint lock seminar. I had done a lot of it before in different settings, but this was the first formal training I'd had other than in instructor class one time. The difference with this one was that I brought my DAD with me! He'd always do something similar to teach me self-defense when I was a kid, so I thought he might enjoy it, so I invited him to come. He was able to do almost all of it except at the end, because it would bother his knees, but it was only the last 5-10 minutes of the seminar, so it was fine. We never got paired up (DARN!), but we got to rotate partners. I guess I was considered the nice one, because I didn't try to rip anyone's arm off. RA, who was teaching it, had 4 simple rules, the 4 Ss-- 1)Safe, 2)Slow, 3)Slap and 4) Stop. In other words, for learning purposes, we had to be safe, and to do that we needed to do it slowly, if it hurt you should slap your leg or give some other signal, and remember to stop if someone else does that. Easy enough. There was one white belt mom there with her two boys (one of them being the one who kicked me too hard in sparring class a few weeks ago), and a new blue belt who just transferred in from another school, and then I was the next highest ranked. Everyone else were black belts. Oh, and except for my Dad. ;-) It was fun, and my arms are still attached and not broken. I got an email from my dad later thanking me for inviting him, because he had fun, and really liked working with my TKD friends who were patient and helpful.

Whew! I think that's a pretty full week for TKD! As it is, I won't be able to do triple classes on Wednesday, as I have to go to a Pack Leaders meeting on Wednesday night. I probably need the break, though. While I have a countdown now until my testing time (see the left column, and scroll down a bit), I'm feeling okay about my material at this point. I'm pretty anxious about moving onto new stuff, because IF I can make it that night, I have an interschool tournament 2 days later (if the Scouts don't meet), and I'll be competing as a 1st degree! SW said I'd learn the 1st degree weapon form for SJB in about 10 minutes, and she could review it the day after my testing by coming into work early before I left if needed. I know all the elements already, it's just the combination and a little bit of the footwork I need help with, as well as just a few moves I don't know. Well, if SHE thinks I can learn it that quickly, then, well.... So I'll have to pay more attention to Drew on Monday and Wednesday, and I'll still have my day class to practice. I think this will give me some time to heal up from all these triple nights!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


It's official.

For Camo Belt Decided: Drew

For First Degree BLACK BELT Decided: Windsornot

Update to Missing Pieces

Talked with SW. Nothing to worry about in the end. She said what happened was that Drew was actually doing very well in class, up until that point that he looked up. She had told him something he didn't like, and he had looked to me for approval, and I wasn't giving it one way or another. It was from that point forward that he only did his forms and everything in a half-hearted way. SW said she was actually very pleased with the way he was doing things before the altercation, and then even the fact that he didn't have a blowout, and kept going half-heartedly without making scene was HUGE progress in her eyes. She said that even when he had his little part to do, which was to yell, "SET!" at the end of the last segment, he did it in a way that was very leadership-like of him. She also said that at his age, she's not too worried about left or right foot as long as the general move is done, and if he were still doing that at age 8, then she'd worry. She felt that for a 6 year old, he's doing very well, and not to worry about doing the form more correctly, getting the moves for his weapons and taking the easy way out with board breaks. She felt that he's still doing well with sparring too, and just has to remember his control, but that has still progressed as well. His transition to upper-level color belt has been good. She felt that his attitude in class and his behavior has improved immensely, and she felt that was more important than the actual steps. The steps will come in time, and 6 year olds aren't always as coordinated yet, but attitude is everything, and he's made major strides with that.

So I'm relieved! WHEW!

Missing pieces

Yesterday was the day Drew has his class, and as it's getting closer to testing time, SW was really putting the kids through the ringer. It wasn't bad, and the kids were calling her mean and evil, but she took it as a compliment. Little do they know what she's REALLY like when she gets mean and evil! Don't get me wrong, she can be really good with kids too, but when she lays down the law, it's grounded!

I normally don't watch Drew's classes and try to stay out, but yesterday was a little hard. I had my knitting with me, and was catching up with one mom I hadn't seen for a while. JR, her son, started TKD before Drew by a few months, and he's only a little older than Drew (6 months), but he hasn't taken any breaks, and he even got to the point where he *wanted* to move up full belts and know the whole form instead of half forms. He only has to know half until he's 7, but according to JR's mom, the last two cycles he's been doing full belts, so he's already a brown belt. Drew, on the other hand, granted, he's working on getting his full camo belt (bottom of the upper level color belts). If he hadn't taken so many and such long breaks, he'd be further along too. But I couldn't help watching Drew, as I think that he's one of the, if not THE youngest in his class, even if it's by a matter of months. He's also the lowest ranked one in that class. He's in the right class, mind you, but everyone there is at least 2 or more full belts ahead of him. And they are learning the hardest color belt form right now. But somehow, I felt that he wasn't getting the attention he needed when he needed it. And I'll tell you why.

As I watched Drew, he was making really blatant mistakes. And as SW watched all the kids, yes, some of them were making mistakes, but Drew was making the most and worst of them. Right off the bat, he's supposed to do a slow square block on one side, then shift his weight to the other side, and reverse it. He does the first half wrong, and the second half right. How can you not notice one set of hands going in the opposite direction from everyone else? It's things like that which were occurring. He was doing his reverse hook backwards too-- wrong leg, turning the wrong way. I mean, blatant! Now, I understand that it's a hard form. And it's his first time doing it, and he'll do it again probably this time next year. BUT, whether these other kids have to know more or not, I would think Drew should still get corrections, which he's not.

When it came time for board breaks, he got away with doing a palm heel break. Every class, I encourage him to try a new break of some sort. He doesn't do it. And nobody seems to push him to do it. I know he doesn't like change, and he's comfortable with that, and they were trying to make sure the kids who had to break for testing got their practice in (which were all but Drew and another kid). But still--I'm working at that place so I can afford to send him, and he's not getting that individualized attention he needs other than in disciplinary ways, and that not helping him progress. He did get a little wacky and rough in sparring, but it was quickly resolved, and even another kid (not Drew) was complaining that some of the other kids were being too rough and he had to sit out. Drew also had to be separated for weapons, because they are showing much more complicated stuff, and he's just not ready for that. They just tell him, "Okay Drew, work on your freestyle.". He doesn't know the form they've been teaching for freestyle. He just stands back there and plays with his JB. That's not learning.

I feel like I have to have a discussion about it with SW. I know she's can't necessarily personalize it just for Drew, but if there are things that he needs help on, and he won't let me help him, then he has to get it from her.

While I know she understands his needs very well, and is more capable of handling him than a lot of places, I sometimes wonder if he should transfer to Master C's. He doesn't realize that they are tougher on kids than SW is, but it's closer, and maybe he'd respond better to Master C's teachers. I don't know. I would think it'd be worse because they don't know Drew's history and why he does what he does, whereas my school knows him almost too well. I don't know. I think I have to have a talk with her. I don't expect Drew to be doing this perfectly, but I do expect him to have his form down a lot more closer to correct than what I see now. And while he's being challenged in some ways, he's not in others where he should. I don't know. It's rather confusing and frustrating to watch, knowing what I know.

ETA: I did send an email to her this morning, since I know I won't have a lot of time to talk to her when she comes in this afternoon, to voice my concerns. I really tried to say to her that I realize Drew is not an easy student, and I don't expect perfection, but he does need help and I'm not sure how to go about this. Hopefully she'll respond positively.