Saturday, February 11, 2006

"How do you think your test went?"

At some point during each test, or sometimes during the belt ceremony, someone always asks this. Usually, I say "OK," because that's how my test usually goes. In the past, I haven't always done that well at the test--I've done better in classes before the test than I have in the cauldron of test day with everyone doing different forms and nerves on edge.

But the test I did in December went very well. I was focused, didn't forget important moves, broke on the first try. So now I have this experience of a "good test" in my mind, and I want to repeat it.

This time? Well, it's OK.

Getting Focus
I arrive a bit later than I wanted to. I get my uniform on; my hair's already in a French Braid (a bit nicer than my usual practical ponytail). I greet a few people and then spot Master Hughes.

"I'm injured," I tell him. "Any advice?" I show him my heel. It's still black and blue, but the swelling's gone down. The black and blue part is only at the edges.

He looks at it. "How does it feel?"

"Better than it was before. I think I'm going to try and break with it."

"Break on the first try," he tells me. Yeah. That's my plan.

I have time to run through Palgwe 5 with Brian, and then we have to line up. There are lots of children, so I'm not in the first or second row. I'm right in the middle, and Brian lines up directly behind me. Very reassuring.

After some brief warm-ups and kicking, we do Chun Jee with eyes closed. Ik. I accidentally punch Patrick, who's on my right, at one point. "Sorry," I say. I end up facing the correct direction, at least.

Our newer forms go fine, though I feel a bit constrained by space as I move through Yul Gok. Robbie is filming with my digital camera over at my right.

I'm glad that Pam is my first sparring partner. I like her controlled, focused style of sparring. We both do well. Then Master Hughes has us switch partners. I get Jason. Yikes. He's one of the younger teens, with long arms and legs, strength, and not much control. I get in a few points, then one of his kicks catches me square on the face. I see stars for a minute, and the blow brings tears to my eyes. He's terribly sorry.

"Are you OK?" he asks.

"Yeah. I think so. I'm fine," I say, willing my nose not to bleed. I have to say my focus isn't that good through the rest of sparring.

Board Breaking
This goes better than I expect. My leg swings over the board the first time.

"You went up, not across," says Master Hughes. Figures he's watching when I whiff.

"I have breaking angst," I say. I do. I'm worried about my heel.

But I try again. I look at the board, focus, breathe and kick. It snaps, easily.

And I see something that I haven't noticed before. Brian A. and Frank hold the board at a bit of an angle, not perpendicular to me. I wonder if that's why I injured myself; pad holders always hold it straight out when we practice. Hmm.

Stacey is my judge at this test. It's nice to talk to her during the oral part, the questioning. She's very encouraging and praises my board break. Wow.

We all shake hands, including Robbie, who joins the line after me (I'm glad he feels part of this group!)

He and I chat with Justin, who has also volunteered to help with our dojang's official website. Justin has designing experience; I'm a word nerd. Seems like a good partnership. Justin demonstrates a handstand in his suit. Robbie is impressed.

So maybe the test was better than OK. I think I'm getting better at focusing in a pressure "performance" situation, which was one of my goals for learning a martial art.

Despite the pretty good test and the fact that Robbie is there, there is still a sense that something, someone is missing. I miss Ms. Pryor's presence at the test. I just like the way her teaching style and Master Hughes's compliment each other. I keep hoping that things work out so that she can come back soon.

Pictures soon. I think Robbie also made another movie.

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