My Red Belt Test part 1

The week leading up to my red belt test was one of the longest weeks I’ve experienced in a long time. Last minute practicing and spending nearly a week working out at the gym helped speed things along and little and helped me deal with pre-test jitters, but the final couple days were excruciatingly slow.

I arrived at class on a rainy and gloomy Tuesday night. I asked white belt M.C., the ten y/o girl from my church who I’ve been taking to class why it had to be so stormy on the night of our tests (she had been told that she might test for yellow). We were both fighting against nervousness as  we walked in and started getting ready for our classes.

Mr. Mc arrived a few minutes later, bringing in a video camera, tripod, and extension cord which made the reality that “I am testing tonight” all the more official.

As I began stretching, I noticed Mr. G and Mr. R.S. walk in and head down the hall to change. I told M.C that Mr. R.S. was the head instructor at our sister school the next state over, and she asked me who the other two were. I paused, not having seen them, but realized the next second that it must be Mr. R.S.’s black belts, Mr. J.S. and Ms S. That put the black belts present up to five. I mentioned in my last post that there were going to be a minimum of five. As my heart sped up, all I could think about was, “That’s five and counting.”

Mr. G and Mr. Mc took me out of the main room to talk to me about the test. The main points they discussed with me was my confidence. Mr. G asked me who showed up tonight – Ariel or Ms ___? I told him Ms ___. They left me by myself after telling me that each black belt was going to come and talk to me.

Mr. R.S. came to talk to me next, then Mr. O, and finally Mrs. C. Mr. J.S. and Ms. S were busy teaching the kids’ class.

I was brought back into the dojang and told to take over teaching the seven kids. Before I stepped in to teach, I had been feeling the effects of nervousness. My face was burning, my insides churning, and my heart pounding like I had been out running. But as soon as I took over the kids class, I felt calm. My confidence shot way up from where it had been moments before. I was in my comfort zone. I think that last thirty minutes where I worked with those kids was the best thirty minutes I could have spent before my test started.

The kids’ class lined up and dismissed as I headed back to drink some Gatorade before the adult class lined up. Mr. Mc told the kids about my test and invited them to stay if they wanted.

Finally, “Line up!” was called for the adult class. There were nine of us. . . and eight black belts present (Mr. S, the ninth black belt arrived shortly after my test began). That’s one long, intimidating line facing the one student who they would be watching. The black belts introduced themselves, who their immediate instructor was, and how long they’ve been involved in the martial arts. After we bowed in, all of the students except for myself were asked to take a seat in the back. I was called to the center, and the test began.

Mr. Mc was the officiator of the test, and he had the itinerary. Different black belts were asked to lead various portions of the test. First up was the first form we learn, Basic Blocks and Punches, led by Ms S. I was asked to repeat it since the power and intensity that they were wanting wasn’t there. This time around, I was asked to kiai on each technique instead of after every third technique. Having to repeat the very first thing I was asked to do wasn’t at all how I wanted to start off the test, but I didn’t let that get to me. I dug deep to bring out that intensity and power, and then moved on to the next item.

I was then asked to do my three basic forms and the first advanced form in a different order than we normally do. After completing 1st advanced, Mr. J.S. asked me how well I did that form. I told him that it could have been better. When he asked why, I answered that I wasn’t putting enough into it. He asked if I could do it better if I did it once more. Confidently, I said “Yes sir!” The black belts noted a marked improvement from the first time, though they stressed that they this was the second time they’ve had to ask for more, and they did not want to ask again. I needed to fix that.

Ms. S then asked me a question about the differences I saw, being a female in a male dominated class in Tae Kwon Do. This was followed up with two more questions having to do with “what would you do?” when teaching a male student who tells you that the technique you are teaching will not work on him. The key word? Try it out on him and see what he has to say then, and also, adapt. Find something that will work.

I believe at this point, Mr. R.S. took over. He had me get into a fighting stance. From there, he gave me different hand techniques to do. Back fist was the first, then ridgehand with the lead hand. I did a few of those, then a question popped up. “Where would the ridgehand stop?” Oh no. I really did not have a definite answer in my mind, but after further prodding and Mr. O stepping in to give me a target, I finally found the answer they were looking for.

Mr. R.S. had me switch to a ridgehand with the back hand. I was more comfortable with this one because I could rotate on the ball of my back foot and get my hips into it. I did a few of these, then Mr. R.S. had Mr. J.S. stand in front of me to be my target. Mr. G told me that if I could knock him down with my ridgehand, then they would go ahead and give me my red belt. I tried so hard to knock him down, but alas! It did not happen. . . this time.

Next, the mats were pulled up, and blue belt J.G. was called up to be my partner for 1-step sparring. I have not practiced these with a partner in some time. On #4, the takedown, I could tell that J.G. was helping me with the throw – going down fairly easily instead of me being the one who threw him. Mr. G asked him about this, and he hesitantly agreed that this was the case. Mr. G told him not to help me out at all. I tried to do the takedown again and pop his knee, but it was a no go. I tried several times with the same results. Finally though, I did make him go down.

Following the 1-steps was my 8 self defense techniques with Mr. R.S. This was, in my opinion, the hardest single section of my test. The majority of my techniques were not effective in this situation or I was ripped apart because of a too high level of response to the situation, etc. I was told to improvise and adapt when things didn’t work, but my ability to do so was not that good. Improvisation is something I really need to work on. Lots of questions were also asked, and I was about at the end of my rope with frustration and feeling overwhelmed.

Thankfully, we moved on to advanced forms 2-5 which I felt went much more smoothly.

Mr. J.S. came up to my right said and said that he was going to do some kicking combinations. He was not going to tell me what they were or repeat them, so I had to watch and copy him as best as I could. This had to be the most stressful “Follow the Leader” game that I’ve ever played. In no way did he do the kicks slowly, plus, at the end, he told me that he had purposely turned in a way that made the kicks hard for me to see. I believe he wanted to see if I would say, “Mr. J.S., I’m having a hard time seeing your kicks. Will you move to my other side?” Darn it. I might have possibly said something if this was in class rather than a testing situation. As it was, I just tried to copy him as best as I could.

At this point, I was given a brief break to get some water, and during that time, white belt M.C. tested for her yellow belt. As she did her Basic Blocks and Punches, Mrs. C and Ms. S came over to encourage me and give me some advice.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Wow Ariel - congratulations on passing your red belt and very interesting account of your test. I am hoping to go for a red belt later this year. It sounds like you coped really well under a lot of pressure!

Michele said...

Congratulations on your red belt!

Ariel said...

Thank you for commenting, Nicola! I wish you the very best on your red belt test!

Thanks, Michele!

Felicia said...

I can't imagine how stressful it is to test alone! Good for you for doing your thing and handling what was tossed at you like a true martial artist. Congratulations, Ariel :-)

Slayr said...

Congrats on your new rank. That was a tough test. You should be proud!

Ariel said...

Thanks, Felicia! :)

Thank you, Mr. Slay.