Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Official Invitation / Self-Doubts and Vanity

I've officially been invited to test for my orange belt on March 25th. Got my invitation, along with a Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Association membership enrollment sheet and copy of the white belt test score sheet (for my reference in practicing and preparing for the exam I assume) at the end of class last night. I also received a paper assignment that must be completed and turned in to Sa Bom Nim Nunan before the test: "What Tang Soo Do means to me." Fairly open-ended, which is of course the worst sort of paper for me, since I tend to over-analyze everything and will now spend an absurd amount of time addressing what is ultimately a fairly simple topic. I should just jot down the URL of this blog and tell him to start reading in mid-to-late December 2005 and judge for himself.

It's funny: While I'm excited (and nervous) to be testing soon, I was kind of bummed out when I received my invitation because I was just having a really "off" night at class last night. I wanted my first invitation to be the high point of a great night, but instead my energy was really low, I had a lot of trouble staying focused, and I was getting bent out of shape about silly stuff.

We had two new white belts in the class and I kept getting caught up in all sorts of negative thinking about myself while working out with them, mostly because they were already doing the basic line drills that I really stumbled on early on (low block, high block) without any problems. What's really stupid is that I shouldn't be surprised that they are catching on quickly -- both of these women have kids who have been studying Tang Soo Do for years, so they have been repeatedly exposed to these techniques for a long time. More important, I shouldn't be concerned about their performance vs. my own. I should be happy for their gains and not sit here comparing them against myself. It's foolishness and vanity.

And yet I kept getting this sense of frustration and self-doubt, wondering why they were doing so much better at these moves than I felt I did at the same point in my training. Wasting energy and focus on something completely inconsequential. Honestly, I don't even know that they were doing better than I did on my first lessons. They may have been messing up left and right. It's not like I was staring at them and judging their performance. I wasn't really watching them so much as going all internal and negative on myself.

And then there was another issue, with a young student (11 going on 12 -- he trains with the adults due to some pretty serious ADHD issues that would be heavily disruptive to a kids/teens class) whom I outrank accidentally being placed ahead of me in rank last night. This student has a yellow belt, which is not a "real" Tang Soo Do belt. He comes to our school with some previous training from another discipline (Tae Kwan Do I believe) and the yellow belt signifies this previous training. But now that I've received my second stripe Sa Bom Nim considers my rank to be higher than his assumed cross-rank.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pfaff (our instructor last night) did not know that Sa Bom Nim had made this decision and placed this student ahead of me in the lineup. I didn't want to contradict Mr. Pfaff on the mat, so I let it slide and hoped that my classmate would correct the error. But he's a kid so needless to say he didn't speak up either. At first I tried to just do the techniques and not worry, but as the class wore on and I was being given really simple line exercises while the "colored belts" were being given more interesting combinations to try -- nearly all of which I was capable of performing, and few-to-none of which my classmate was performing correctly -- I felt angry. Which, needless to say, screwed up my performance on the simpler tasks I was being given, which added to my frustration, which further eroded my focus and performance, and so on.

So by the end of the class I was just a wreck. I had managed to blow nearly all of my defensive turns during line drills (I kept turning them into offensive turns), my stances were all over the place, my preparations on punches were sloppy. You name it, I was messing it up. Simple, simple stuff that I've been doing correctly for 2 months suddenly was tripping me up left and right. Finally, at the end of class I managed to get myself a bit more pulled-together, when were started doing some advancing kick combinations, but all in all my performance for the night was quite poor.

And that's when I get invited to test. And of course, that's when that negative little voice in the back of my head pipes in "Man, he must not have been watching you tonight. He'd have shredded that invitation then and there...."

Which is, of course, completely not true. My skills, my training are more than one bad night in the dojang. I know I've earned the privilege of testing for my next belt. I wish I knew why these doubts, this reflexive need to compare myself against everyone else are surfacing so strongly right now.

So anyway, once my classmate left and I had a private moment with Sa Bom Nim and Mr. Pfaff I asked about the rank issue and cleared that up. Mr. Pfaff was very apologetic -- which made me feel like kind of a shit, because while I told myself I was just clearing things up and didn't want to confuse my classmate, I knew deep down that what I really wanted was validation for the way I'd felt during class. I wanted someone to know that my nose was out of joint and to make me feel like it was justified. His apology satisfied that selfish need, and I immediately realized that what drove my attitude the whole night, that what messed me up repeatedly was nothing more than pettiness, pure and simple.

I hope that recognizing this will help me avoid it more in the future.

Mood: Reflective, Somber
Now Playing: Thomas Newman, "The Road to Perdition"

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