Monday, August 15, 2005

What the Test is Like

It's not too hot this morning (Saturday), but everyone still gripes a bit about having to wear our stiff jackets. We're used to wearing t-shirts in the summer, but test days mean we have to wear the whole uniform, including the jacket.

I put a little dragon tattoo on my ankle for luck. (After the test some of the women with tattoos try to convice me that I need a real tattoo. I point out my aversion to pain.)

Master Hughes gives a brief talk before the test begins.

"How many of you are ready for school to start?" he asks. I raise my hand wildly. He jokes that I must NOT be ready for school to start (since I teach) but I assure him otherwise!

He also reminds us not to worry about the test, but to think about what we're doing (as we should in school) and enjoy doing our work well. Inspiring words.

After some basic movements, we do our forms. This is always a difficult part of the test. We're lined up by height, not by belt level (I'm in the second row from the front, if you must know, right behind the children), so you're in there with people doing all sorts of different forms. Plus, there's a great crowd. I mess up once on Won Hyo, and step on Heidi, who's next to me, at least once while I do my Palgwe forms.

Next is sparring. I spar first with Heidi, a really tough opponent. Then with a yellow belt, Jamie, and then with Pam, one of my favorite sparring opponents. Pam is good. She has good stamina, and doesn't just strike out; she's thinking about her moves. I think I do OK at sparring.

Did I mention that I really LIKE to spar?

I'm ready to break with my jump reverse kick. I had practiced with the heavy bag at our last class, and I know I have it down. Nancy, a black belt, holds for me, along with someone's Dad. I focus, breathe, and break that board in one try. There's some applause. It's fun to watch the others break and cheer them on.

And After
I feel good about this test. I linger a few minutes with my bag before I go home. I wish I could stay and watch the black belt test, but I'm needed at home. I envy those who can just stay.

But I also have a new thought: that even though I can't be here as much as I'd like, even though I don't practice forms every day . . . I belong here at the dojang. I really am a student of the martial arts, not just someone dabbling in it to see what it's about. I feel comfortable here, and I feel like maybe I'll stay a while and see if I can get as far as a black belt. Even though it's not the only thing going on in my life by any means, it's an important thing, and it's becoming part of who I am.

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