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.


Anonymous said...

CONGRATS!!! I also think this has been more fun having you to compete with and learn from. I just wish we were at the same school but we are lucky that our instructor lets me sneak to classes at your school pretty regularly. I'm sorry the "forms" video was so shaky. I kept having to move around to try to get you to not be obstructed by ES. And I really wanted to tape the whole sparring match. I didn't know how long it was to be (normal sparring matches are two full minutes!!) and I needed to save some space on the camera because I wanted to be sure to have room for your board break. But you did have one really nice non-contact round kick to her head early, and some kind of spin crescent or something that I hadn't seen you throw before. Anyway I was happy to be there to see and look forward to this next step on our journey. Love Oceandirt (Sandy)

Becky said...

Congratualtions again to you and Drew as well! I enjoyed every minute of the videos and your excellent description. I saw some really good kicks in your sparring, and in Drew's also. You should be proud!

frotoe said...

You looked GREAT!!! big congratulations!! I loved the videos, I thought your form in all areas was really sharp. You really deserve this!
and btw, Drew is adorable. If I did that many spinning moves while I spar I'd throw up. He looked great!

John Vesia said...

Congrats on getting your black belt! I'm a little surprised they enforced controlled kicking for a black belt test, but all for the better. Maybe I missed something, but I'm still not sure what decided means in regards to earning a black belt. At any rate you should be proud.

[Mat] said...

Congratulations! Big big!

Be proud and keep having fun. :D