The Black Hole Phenomenon

In my speech class last year, my professor told us on the first day that there was a phenomenon that seemed to happen about a month or so after classes begin. For the first few weeks, most of the seats would be filled. Over time, students would stop coming to class, never to be seen again. Her explanation for this? There was a black hole in the middle of the campus that swallowed them up.

I believe that there’s a similar phenomenon that happens in our Tae Kwon Do class. There will be students who seem to really enjoy class. Usually these students will be well on their way to their first (or next) belt test. One day, they will not show up to class. There will be a continued absence to where I wonder where they are. As time goes on and they still haven’t come back, I wonder what happened to them. I’m just a student so I don’t know everything my instructors might know about the situation, but sometimes we will both wonder together what happened to so and so. They seemed to be really involved in class, so why did they stop coming?

When the disappearance of a student happens in the middle of the year, it’s anyone’s guess as to what happened. But when it happens after Christmas break to several people, I have a little bit more of an idea. I usually only miss class one or two times a year at most, so I haven’t really experienced what I’m about to say relating to martial arts, but Mr. Mc and I talked about this a few weeks ago. When there is a delayed break in training, it takes effort to decide to start up again. The “Well, we’ll just start back next week,” turns into “Well, maybe after school (or football/baseball season) is over.” On and on this goes until the student or parent in question just doesn’t bother anymore. The longer you wait, the harder it is to start back.

There’s been a few people that seem to have fallen into this trap recently. I really miss their being in class and I hope that they will come back if they truly enjoyed their Tae Kwon Do training. It really makes me wonder what their reasons are for not coming any longer. I wish I knew. Maybe that black hole appeared outside the dojang and sucked them into it.

Preparing for the Test

Two weeks ago, Mr. G pulled me out of line and started looking at my forms. He had me do six out of the nine forms for color belts. Now six forms doesn't sound like a lot, but when Mr. G is the one who is watching you do them, it is. His method is that he will watch you do the form until he sees something wrong or that's not being done to his standard. In my case it was more nitpicky things than flat out mistakes. Anyway, once he spots something, he stops you, corrects you, then makes you start at the beginning again. If you make the same mistake or one further in the form, it's time to begin again. And again and again and again -- until it is right. After a few repetitions of a form, I would be just in reach of finishing. Mr. G would stop me and say, “Guess what?” to which I would reply “I have to start over.”

After getting back home, I worked on incorporating the changes he made into what I was practicing.

This past week at the Thursday night class, before class even started, Mr. G asked me,

"How is your stamina?"

Upon hearing this, I knew that I was in for a good, long workout. To answer his question, I thought back to what I've done since the last class we had in December up until now. Since August, I have been following a 4-5 day a week walking plan, a 3-4 day a week cardio workout, and I've been working on my pushups. The almost three weeks I had been sick over Christmas and other health issues in my family starting at the end of October really took a toll on my keeping up with a routine. I've kept up with my Tae Kwon Do classes twice a week, practicing at home, and a little running and pushups, but I haven't gotten back into the swing of things. This week I am going to start back and stick with it.

Taking these things into consideration, and the fact that I've also been told that I'll be testing soon, I told Mr. G that my stamina was so-so. He reminded me of the fact that my red belt test will be happening any day now and that I need to be prepared to go for an hour and a half for that test.

Just like last week, after we finished the warmup, Mr. G pulled me to one side to work with me. He told me that he was going to put me through most of the physical portion of my test. Since he had already worked with me on corrections last week, he said that he wasn’t going to stop me in the middle of a form. In fact, he was going to give me a minimal amount of rest in between each form.

After that, he started me on the 1st basic form and had me go through 5th advanced, only allowing me stop a few times in between so that I could turn around to adjust my uniform and catch my breath. During the last few advanced forms, I really had to dig deep to keep the same intensity and put the same snap into my techniques. I was breathing hard and sweating by the end, but I made it, and I was fairly pleased that I managed to keep up a good bit of the intensity/snap toward the end.

Thankfully Mr. G gave me a water break so I could catch my breath properly. When I came back, we moved straight into my basic and advanced kicks. Front snap, side, roundhouse instep, roundhouse ball of the foot, crescent, reverse crescent, hook, axe, reverse axe, spinning back, spinning reverse crescent, and spinning hook kicks done at knee, belt, and face level. On the hook kick and a few of the spinning kicks, I had trouble with keeping my kicks at knee level, so we spent extra time on those.

I was allowed another water break and then he had me do various progressive techniques from a fighting stance.

Not only must I be able to perform the techniques for my test, but I must also be mentally prepared to answer questions about the techniques and forms that they will throw at me. I also have a couple sections of the test where I will have to teach and demonstrate my self defense techniques and my advanced kicks. To prepare me for this, during the course of the night Mr. G asked me several questions. Several were about what certain forms teach you. Balance, power, timing, etc. Others were technical questions like what the striking surface of a given kick is.

By this time, an hour had passed, so everyone lined up and the other students were dismissed. I was told to stay because Mr. G and Mr. Mc wanted to work on something else with me. He told me that we were going to do some 2 on 1 sparring. I think I mentally groaned at hearing that. Two on one sparring is something that we really don’t get introduced to until around brown belt. I got a taste of it when they had me spar both Mr. Mc and Mrs. C for my brown belt test, and I was one of the 2 who sparred Miss S during her black belt test last January.

Two on one sparring presents many unique challenges. For one, you have to keep an eye on both opponents and if you get tied up with one, you still have the other person to worry about. The strategy they gave me was to pick one of them and get them in the middle between myself and the other person. Sort of a “monkey in the middle” situation.

I found that the most frustrating issue in 2 on 1 sparring is not getting overwhelmed by having two very experienced martial artists coming at you and trying to back you up into a corner and hit you. I fought against the instinct to go all wide-eyed “deer in the headlights” and stop. It was very much like cat and mouse, and I was the very inexperienced mouse.

Mr. G told me that we would work more on 2 on 1 sparring at Tuesday night’s class. In the meantime, I’m using any opportunity I can get to practice everything I have to do for my test. I’ve been walking down the hall throwing kicks, stretching as I watch tv, and showing up early to church to do forms in the gym. There’s a good chance that tonight’s class could be the night I test, so I am doing all I can to prepare for it.