Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Board

New policy at my dojang: Everyone needs to have one of these boards filled out for promotional tests.

On The Board is a list of all the forms you have learned, along with Basic movements, sparring, 3 and 1 steps, and your breaking kick for that test. Between now and the test, we have to have a black belt watch us do all these things and sign off on the board. Ideally, each student will have eight signatures for each item.

This is a familiar practice to black belts. When you test for your black belt, you have to do all your forms for each of the other active black belts, and when you do them correctly, the black belt signs off on the board. That means doing all white belt through black "Chon-ji" forms and also Palgwe forms if you're an adult. Doing that for EACH black belt at the school, usually before or after class.

Now we all have to do this. The idea is for us all to practice and be comfortable with all the forms, and not wait until black belt status before we revisit them.

I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, it makes me feel good to know that I'll be good at all those past and present forms. I'm also glad we're going back to doing 1 and 3 steps in class again.

Still, it's an awful lot to remember, especially for those of us who are adults and have more trouble memorizing things than children do.

But here's my real worry about these: that they'll cut into the socializing aspect of class.

That sounds really superficial, but I would say it's not. Maybe "socializing" is not the word I want. Maybe it's more like "community-building" or "fellowship" or "connecting."

I think that we'll eventually be expected to meet with black belts before or after class to get boards signed. Maybe not. Maybe it'll all be done during class. But if it's done before class, I will miss the chance I have to greet and talk with my peers and seniors.

I really like that aspect of TKD, and I think it's important. I don't usually do what we're supposed to do: go around and shake hands with all the black belts. I tend to greet a few people and spend some time with them talking. I try to greet different people each time. I prefer that to moving around quickly, but I think both happen at our dojang, and that's cool.

Why is this important? I think it has something to do with the energy-sharing issue I discussed in a post. We work closely together here; we need to be comfortable with each other. And we have to trust each other when we spar with each other--trust that the person's not going to hurt you.

I guess I intellectually know that my classmates are trustworthy, that I can fail while I'm with them, that I can trust them not to hurt me. But for me, I'm more relaxed, more willing to learn when that knowledge is more than intellectual: when I have an emotional connection with my classmates, know something about them, share a bit of our lives with each other. I want to feel that connection to my peers as I go through my martial arts training. If filling out the board gets in the way of that, I will be sorry.

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