Sunday, April 10, 2005

Promotional test

Saturday arrives warm and humid. Promotional test for some . . . my pulled muscle still makes it difficult for me to even tie my shoes. I'm going to have to skip it. Dang.

After we arrive (hard to find a parking place), I stop in to tell Master Hughes about my injury. He'd also had a similar one--he works in a factory as his "day job."

"Here, let me show you a stretch you can try," he says. "Lie down."

OK. I lie down on the floor of the office, and Master Hughes takes my left leg and raises it up, 90 degrees to my body. He stands there and props my ankle on his shoulder.

"Now press into my shoulder," he says, and I do.

"Hey--we do this in ballet," I exclaim.

The stretch does make my pulled muscle feel better, but I decide I'll wait and do it more when I'm sure the pull has healed.

In the dojang, my boys await me. I tie belts, soothe nerves and watch them do their forms. Then they're called up--we line up by height during tests. There's a big crowd even though brown belts are testing in the afternoon with blackbelts.

Master Hughes calls Chelsea, a teen blackbelt to lead stretches and begin basic moves. There's a special order to them all--I wonder if it's the same in dojangs around the world, like barre in ballet that always begins with plies, tendus, etc. etc.

Then we do basic moves. I'm please that Eli is following direction without goofing off.

Robbie, two rows behind him, still has a shallow stance (Master Hughes wanders by and corrects it at one point), but he pops back up. Still, he looks pretty good.

It's strange to be sitting on the sidelines today, over by the weight machines with the other moms, the supportive moms, the ones who aren't taking classes. I have to move carefully so my back doesn't twinge. I look over at Pam and Amy who are doing well. I wish I were testing. I really don't mind it because we do it together, not alone.

After basic moves, Master Hughes divides this group up. The children, at the front of the room, do their forms. Eli doesn't make a mistake. Robbie's moves are a bit more precise than usual.

During this, some of the children have trouble. Master Hughes helps Brian's son, Matthew do his form. As a recent transfer from the "Little Ninja" class where children aren't expected to do forms, Matthew is having trouble learning Chun ji. Master Hughes stands right next to him and does the form along with him, while the other children watch patiently. I think tests are a learning opportunity here as well as a chance to prove one's proficiency. That's certainly how I look at tests in my own classes.

Finally, they get sparring gear.

"OK sweetie," I say to Eli. "This is your chance to show Master Hughes how good you are at sparring. It's one of your best skills." Eli straps on some mitts.

Robbie also puts on his sparring gear, with trepidation, as he's been paired with a blue belt boy, two ranks above him.

They both do amazingly well, though. Robbie gets in the match and attacks, rather than hanging back. He scores on the first blue belt.

Eli spins and hops, getting in lots of good kicks and punches, too.

Master Hughes walks by as they are sparring. I hope he noticed them!

During breaking, no one is having any luck, or at least none of the children are. The boards just do not seem willing to break. Children try again and again--some patiently, some with a hint of tears. Eli throws a brief temper tantrum, stomping his feet at a black belt, but then he comes to sit with me for a while.

Robbie has trouble, too. He is just not comfortable with the wheel kick. He tries again and again, falling down occasionally (dramatic boy that he is). His face shows frustration, and his moves become half-hearted. Master Hughes comes over to hold the board. I pray that Robbie does not start to cry.

Finally, both boys are given the light weight boards to break, and they manage to do it. Master Hughes has Robbie do push-ups. Robbie sits down by me, defeated and discourages. He does not cry.

"The important thing is you kept trying," I whisper. He's not sure.

"I'm not going to pass. I know it."

Master Hughes ends with an inspirational speech, then everyone lines up to shake hands with the black belts.

To my relief, several adults mention to Robbie that he did very well with his break, keeping up even though he doesn't want to. Robbie stands listening while I talk to Pam about it.

"I think he's really learned perseverence from Tae Kwon Do," I tell her. "Before he took this class, it was hard for him to keep going when things got rough, but now he's getting better at it."

I am proud of them, both of them.

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