Sunday, September 23, 2007

Red Belt Test Recap

OK, I'm a red belt now. Check out the cool new South Park character image in my profile -- created a brand new one, with a haircut that looks more like the short and spiky look I'v ebeen sporting the last year, plus a nicer, more peaceful background. Ahhhhhhh. Sweet.

So, yeah, I've reached 3rd gup. No pictures, yet -- my digital camera's batteries died after my mom took 3 pictures, and she took pictures but was using an old-school film camera so we'll need to wait until she develops them to see how things look. I should be able to post a few pics later today.

The test was great but ow, man, everything hurts. Every muscle in my arms, legs and back is aching like mad. I think that was largely because the test went so quickly. We had 11 green belts testing together, 7 6th gups (including Christine and Trevor) and 2 5th gups testing for stripes, and 2 4th gups (me and my 8 year old training buddy Kayleigh) testing for red belts. Overall everyone really knew their stuff -- Trevor was a bit of a goofball during the test, and we need to work on that, but all in all he knows his techniques. Christine did terrific as well, and the rest of the green belts mostly knew what they were doing aside from a couple of hitches here and there.

As a result, the test was over in less than 3 hours, which is nice in some ways (easier to maintain a high level of energy and discipline for the length of the test) but it also tends to be a bit more demanding physically, as you don't get much time to catch your breath. When folks are messing up, the rest of the people testing typically get to sit and wait for a while until they get their problems worked out, but aside from waiting for the 6th and 5th gups to finish their forms I had almost no sit-and-relax time at all.

Anyway, I'm mostly thrilled with my own performance on test day, with the notable exception of the improvised self defense technique I performed on my wife. I mean, it was a really good technique -- blocked her punch to the outside, then stepped in with an elbow to the face, a second elbow to the back of the head as I moved my right leg behind her, followed by a rear leg sweep while pushing her backward with my arm to pinwheel her to the floor. It was very effective. I also used a bit too much power, causing her to hit the mat way too hard and knocking the wind out of her. We had to excuse ourselves from the mat and head into the restroom so she could pull herself back together and I could make sure she was OK.

I felt horrible -- she wasn't really injured, and she was able to shake it off and finish the test without any problem -- but still, I really dropped her pretty hard. Honestly, I wasn't trying to use so much power, but I'm so damn used to training with big guys that I forget just how strong I can be and how much smaller she is than me. Plus, she wasn't prepared for such a hard drop which really made it worse -- had she known it was going to be as hard as it came out she would have tucked her chin more and been ready to hit. But happily she's OK and no permanent damage was done. Bit of a headache after the test, and today her neck is pretty sore too, but all in all she's OK.

Regardless, I'll be living that one down for a while .

Otherwise testing went really, really well. I had no problems of note on my hand and foot techniques, one steps were just fine, wrist grabs offered no problems at all aside from briefly blanking on one cross hand technique, sparring was fun (I sparred Christine, which was nice because it really gave us a chance to show that we could work together with control and have a good time -- I really wanted to show that I can control myself and my power, to the testing board and to her), the other students were tested on terminology while Christine and I were making sure she was OK after the fall so we didn't have to do any of the Q&A stuff.

Breaking was cool as well -- the requirements are breaking 1 board with a jumping downward heel kick , doing a two-board break with a choice of any hand technique, and 2 boards with a hopping side kick. However, aside from the jumping downward heel kick I'd already done all the breaks I needed to do (I broke a brick with a palm heel a good six months back, just to see if I could, and broke 3 boards with a hop side kick three months back after the last green belt test). So instead I got to show off a bit. The downward heel kick was a walk in the park: I accidentally broke it while sizing it up -- I meant to just sort of tap the board with my heel to make sure I was in the right spot, and instead the board just popped. Same thing happened when I did spin back kick a while back -- one board is nothing to a guy my size. But the audience got a good laugh out of it, so that was cool.

For my hand technique I asked Sa Bom Nim to select a more difficult techniqe since I'd already done a brick. He suggested knife a two board knife hand strike, which was honestly what I was hoping he'd say. Definitely a bit of a scary break, as if you hit without your hand tensed properly you can easily break bones, especially when you're going through 2 or more boards. Regardless, I sized it up and threw a reverse knife hand that broke both boards in a single shot. It was gorgeous. Have a little sore spot on my hand today when part of my wrist connected with the edge of the board, but nothing serious.

So then it was time to try to show off a bit, and we thought we'd give a 4 board hopping side kick break a try. Unfortunately that break ust wasn't going to happen yesterday. I'm certain I can do it -- I'm definitely strong enough, and I broke 3 boards without any problem on my first attempt -- but yesterday wasn't the day. I think it was a combination of my kicks being off a couple of times and the holders being tired. I was the last person breaking, and we only had 4 guys holding for the entire test, so they were getting pretty tired. Breaking 4 boards (which had to be duct taped together) requires something like 2400PSI of force -- something akin to being hit by a car at about 20-25 MPH. So, with that kind of force coming in, it takes at least 4 guys holding and braced, with hands and arms locked out solid and strong, to hold the boards in place when the kick comes in. My first kick was off a bit, but the second one was solid and on target. However, they lost their grip and the boards just pushed backward (putting a nice scrape on my buddy Rich's hand and wrist in the process). Third kick was crap -- I was too close -- but the fourth (and last) was dead on target and solid -- and once again they lost their hold on it and I drove the boards right into Rich's chest. At that point I asked Sa Bom Nim if we could stop, as I was honestly worried that continuing to try it would wind up injuring one or more of friends. No way is my showing off worth hurting someone.

But still, it would have been SO cool.

The thing I'm proudest of, though is that Kayleigh and I blew through all 10 of our forms without any errors or having to repeat anything. That was my main personal goal for the day -- I love forms. They are, without question, my favorite aspect of Tang Soo Do, and I spent an enormous amount of time prepping over the past couple of months -- between tournaments and training -- to try to ensure that I would make no errors on test day. I was also hopeful that Kayleigh would blow them out as well -- she's solid and trains constantly, and we both talked beforehand about our shared goal of not repeating a form.

And we succeeded. We blew through the gichos a bit too fast for my taste, so I wound up getting winded as a result. I kept trying to slow down and pause for a bit after each technique, but 8 year olds don't slow down easily and she kept going faster again. Frankly I was more concerned that we looked good and synchronized out there, so I just kept it up, caugt my breath during chil sung ee rho and kept a stricter pace through the pyong ahns so that I wouldn't wilt.

I was getting pretty run down by pyang ahn o dan, but when we finished it up and began our final form, chil sing ill rho, I knew I was home free. I know this form inside out and I know how to perform it when I'm exhausted. I know where to breath. I know when to brace and when to relax. I know how to do it when my legs feel like they're going to buckle and my chest feels like it's going to explode. So getting thorough it yesterday was almost easy. I just had to focus, breathe, let my body do the techniques I'd practiced hundreds of times over the past 6 months. And when I got to the final sequences I could feel a smile creeping onto my face.

I'd done it. We'd done it. And apparently there hadn't been a 4th-to-3rd gup test where the candidates all got through them without error or pause in years. It's unusual, and definitely something to be proud of. We got a round of applause from the audience as well as from the other candidates -- I think the testing board even applauded, which was just plain awesome. Kayleigh and I turned, shook hands and bowed to each other in thanks, and returned to our spots. From there the test continued, but I think that moment, that sense of accomplishment, will stay with me the rest of my life. Even now I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Anyway, pictures later.

Mood: Achey, happy
Now Playing: Garbage, "Beautifulgarbage"

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