Friday, May 26, 2006

Worry, Dojang Dynamics

So, I'm getting a bit worried. If everything goes according to plan, I will be asked to test for my next gup level at the end of June. I train at least 3 times a week, usually 4, for a total of about 4 hours of time on the mat with instructors or other students. And then I practice what I've learned for at least 20 minutes or so every weekday morning after stretching at my gym, typically dropping some running or weights into the mix to keep things interesting. But the past couple of months a series of events have lined up which have contributed to a sense of ... unpreparedness?

Is that even a word? If not, it should be.

See, the other night I got a copy of the 8th gup test, just to get a sense of what I need to know for my test, and when I looked over the hand and foot techniques ... well. They sure sound familiar, but I don't think I've had much opportunity to work on them in class, with an instructor's guidance, in the past 2 months. Many of them I can only remember being shown, briefly, once of maybe twice, and not recently that's for sure. Now, I train a lot and I take it seriously, so why is this happening? So I sat and thought about it, trying to figure out where I screwed up, how I managed to miss so much of what I need to know, and what I've arrived at is:

Nothing. I didn't screw up. In fact, I don't think that there is fault to be assigned here at all. I certainly don't feel like my instructors have in any way given me short-shrift. But I do think that some dojang dynamics beyond my (or anyone's, really) ability to control have, through a combination of accident and timing and chance, contributed to a definite deceleration in my forward movement, training-wise.

It won't last, but it's frustrating all the same.

A big part of it comes from being the only adult orange belt in my school right now. When I was a white belt that was actually really cool, because I frequently had one-on-one teaching during my adult class time, since we had so few other beginner adult students. But after I advanced we had an influx of other adults -- including my mom and my friend/co-worker Rich -- which is fantastic. More students is a good thing, and training with lower-ranked/less experienced students has given me a lot of confidence in the things I learned to achieve 8th gup. But the downside is that when I attend class I am outnumbered 4 or 5 to 1 by beginners who need a lot more attention and encouragement than I do and so far more time is spent on basic techniques than on the slightly (very slightly) more advanced stuff I need to learn.

Now, that alone is no big deal, and presented no big issues, really. I was picking up new techniques just fine, and I'm not arrogant (or stupid) enough to think that there's nothing I can learn from continuing to work on my basic techniques and forms. Plus, there are the advanced classes I attend once a week to try to pick up more challenging and advanced stuff and also to get a harder workout in. Now, *these* classes have taught me quite a bit. But over the past month they have been focusing mostly on the things that the first gups needed to know for their dan tests (which took place last weekend). As a result I picked up a little bit of ability in kick and punch techniques that are quite advanced, which again was awesome. But again, little to no focus on the things I specifically need to know for my test. Again, to be expected, but again, frustrating.

But then we had a tournament down at Master Reilly's dojang, and the style of training during class the month prior to the tourney necessarily shifted to accentuate the things that we needed to know to compete effectively. So, lots of forms, lots of offensive/defensive combination drills, lots of sparring practice. But little in the way of new techniques.

Again, it's all good -- as a result of this shift in training I was prepared for my first tournament, and I did well. But still, I was conscious of the simple fact that I was focusing on improving things I already knew, rather than picking up new techniques that I would need to advance.

And finally, presently, we've got Master Nunan's surgery and recovery, which has taken him out of the dojang for the time being. Classes are being held as normal, but many are being taught by dan members and 1st and 2nd gups who have volunteered their time, some of whom have little or no previous experience at teaching. As a result, the quality of the instruction has been ... well, varied would be the best way to put it. Not bad, by any means -- I've learned interesting new things in each and every class -- but certainly inconsistent, structure-wise. Some classes have been very specifically dedicated to technique and drills, while others have been all over the map, with the instructor either clearly winging it and just seeing what happens, or trying to introduce stuff they've had fun with in the past to keep things interesting and fun. And it has been interesting, and fun.

But right now I don't think I want or need interesting and fun new stuff. I want and need curriculum. I want and need rigidity and structure. I want and need specifics. I want and need to figure out how to do a goddamn spinning hook kick.


And I know I'll figure it all out. We have several weeks before the exam, and I will almost certainly have to do my test a couple of weeks late anyhow (unless my sis-in-law decides to drop the ball altogether, I'll be up in NY City for her birthday the day of the test) so I'll probably have additional prep time to work with. But I want to feel more prepared.

It's ironic, really. For my last exam I felt insanely over-prepared. Six weeks before the exam I felt I had a solid understanding and ability to perform all of the techniques that were required to advance to 8th gup, with my primary concern being whether my injured hamstrings would trip me up. They didn't, and I did fine.

This time out I can't help feeling like I'll still be figuring stuff out the night beforehand.

Mood: Hungry
Now Playing: U2, "Zooropa"

No comments: