My Black Belt Test
It goes without saying that even with going to bed early, I did not sleep well the night before my test. Ask anyone I know if I'm a morning person, and they will probably laugh. Saturday morning though, I was wide awake and up by 6:30.
I had been advised by my instructors to eat a good breakfast, but not to eat anything substantial after that. After having breakfast at Chick-fil-a, a friend and I killed some time at the mall until I got a call from Mr. Mc at 11:30 asking where I was. Up until that point, I had been strangely calm all morning. Yes, the nerves were there, but they were muted....until the call. My friend and I immediately headed over to the church where my test would be held at, and I tried to remember how to breathe again in the process.
We arrived at the church at 11:45, a few minutes before the first few instructors did. We headed inside and started getting ready. I changed into my gi as my instructors started to prep the room - set the mats up, put tables up for the executive board of black belts, discuss where the other students would sit after the lineup, set up chairs for family/friends etc. etc.
I began stretching and watched as more black belts walked in. I had an hour before my test was scheduled to start, which gave me plenty of time to warm up and talk to the other students. A few of the black belts came up as I was stretching and gave me some words of encouragement which were very much appreciated! A few minutes later, the students from our sister class arrived - I think there were about twelve? I was glad to see them because our sister class is comprised of only adults and it gave me some different people to spar and work with during the test.
Finally, 1:00 arrived. Time for the test to start. There were a total of 13 black belts in attendance, which made for one very long, intimidating line! Everyone lined up, and after the introduction of all the black belts and the black belt candidate, the rest of the students were told to fall off to the side and have a seat. I was called out to the middle and I stood in ready position, waiting for my next instruction.
At this point, I was nervous. Oh, so very nervous. I wasn't terrified and shaking, but nervous with the anticipation of what was about to do. There were two tables set up for the executive board, so I think those six were sitting down with their clipboards (it's definitely official when you have clipboards and score cards). The rest of the black belts stood or moved around the room.
Ms. S. was the officiator of the test. She stepped up and addressed the issue of my confidence. She wanted me to show them I was confident. I hesitated, wondering how I was supposed to show this. I'm on the reserved side and not all that expressive, so while I may be feeling strong emotion on the inside, I don't show much on the outside. That said, I asked her how she wanted me to do this. She suggested a form, and I agreed. Ms. S. let me choose, and I did 4th advanced with all the intensity and expression I could muster.
After this, it was on to the first item of the test. Forms. They had me start with our Basic Blocks and Punches, which is the form for the first color belt. From there, it was back to back forms. 1-3 basic and then Pyung Ahn 1-5. I have to say that I dislike.....hate....loathe entirely.....back to back forms with barely any rest in between. Try keeping the same intensity for nine forms in a row and see how that goes. Not even 30 minutes into the test, and I'm already dripping with sweat. Those went pretty well and I was glad when I finished the last one and could stand and breathe for a few moments.
Mr. R.S. came up next for a kicking demo. He asked me what my best kick was. I said a front snap kick and had to demonstrate several with both legs, then for my most powerful kick, I demonstrated a spinning back kick. After I did a few of those, he grabbed a couple targets and stood in front of me in a solid stance, holding the target pads up. My instruction was to do the kick and knock him back. It took me about six tries to do this. My first few were good technically, but didn't knock him back. The next few rocked him in his stance, then my last one finally made him move. Mr. R.S. then told me that he was going to move the targets and I was to hit them with whatever kick I wanted - but to do it quickly. and with power. I stuck with my basic kicks - front, side, and roundhouse, and was breathing hard when he finally stopped me.
I think I'm getting this a little out of order, but I'll continue as is. Ms. S. came up to me holding something that I'd hoped I would not have to have during my test. A blindfold. She put it on me and told me to do one of my forms. I don't remember which one it was, but I do remember smiling a bit at hearing this. Normally, I would have been anxious about doing something blindfolded, as I've really never practiced any of my Tae Kwon Do while blindfolded. Thankfully though, on the Tuesday before my test, Mr. O blindfolded me and had me do forms, kicks, and self defense. I was relieved that I had already had a little practice with the blindfold, and not having it come up on the test as a big surprise. I did the form, and when I took it off, I was off at a slight angle instead of facing the front of the room. Not ideal, but thankfully it was just a slight angle, so nothing was said about it being off.
My 8 self defense techniques were up next. I got a little breather - no water breaks so far - while the students pulled the mats up to the center of the room. When Ms. S. stepped up to my partner, my uke for self defense, I knew that there would have to be some adapting of technique on my part due to size and reach. The last two people who worked with me on my self defense were Mr. O and Mr. Mc, and both of them are much stronger than me. I was right. The first thing I had to do was walk through the technique, explaining what I was doing, what the threat level was, and answer any follow up questions that the black belts had. Then, I was to do the technique at combat speed.
Self defense has never been on my top ten list of favorite things to do in Tae Kwon Do, but it is essential. Just because I appreciate the need for it doesn't mean I have to like it. Maybe I will when I feel I have more options that I don't have to think about and I can react instead of thinking all the time.... Anyway, I had accepted that things may not go exactly as I had planned, but told myself that whatever happened, I would keep pushing forward and not dwell on it. Boy, did I push. I think Ms. S. stepped up the difficulty and really made me work for each and every scenario I set up. I had to repeat several of my scenarios and adapt on the fly when I couldn't manage to follow through on some of my set-ups. At one point, I had a technique that I had explained as a shoulder grab with a punch held up - threatening. A follow up question was "Is it just threatening, or is she trying to hit you?" I thought about it and said the latter. Mr. G told me that this changed things a bit and I had just given Ms. S. permission to hit me. I told him that I understood. For the combat speed demo, I stepped through my technique, getting offline of the punch, but before I could throw an elbow..... Whap! Punch to the head. Ow. Immediately I was asked why I stopped. Even though I was hit, it wasn't a full force punch and I should have kept going. Oh well. Lesson learned.
Part 2 - Freestyle Self Defense-Teaching