Sunday, February 24, 2008

2nd Gup, Almost

Ow. My legs really hurt. My lats and upper back as well. Gotta love the day after testing.

So, the test was ... an interesting experience. It was, unfortunately, everything I feared it might be. The kids, with one or two exceptions, had absolutely zero energy on the mat, a problem that was compounded by our first proctor also having abslutel;y no energy or volume when he was calling the commands. From the very first moment, it was a struggle to keep up the energy levels on the mat. I kiyaped as loud as I could, trying to urge the other testing candidates to to follow my lead, but sometimes it really felt like I was fighting the tide out there.

And before this test, I never encountered first-hand just what it's like to feel your energy slowly leaking away over the course of the test. I'm not talking about physical fatigue -- that's to be expected. I'm talking about your focus, your drive, you sense of confidence and commitment. By halfway through the test I felt mentally and emotionally drained. I was putting out as much energy as I could to keep the energy levels on the mat and of my fellow students up, and I wasn't getting any of that energy back from the majority of students out there with me. It was exhausting.

And then we got to forms. As a group, the 2nd gup candidates (my group) did well -- most of us got through Pyang Ahn O Dan first time and were allowed to sit as our fellows redid it to get it right. We all got Chil Sung Ill Rho correct the first time. And Bassai we all had to do twice, but it was because we didn't stay together as a group the first time through -- basically 2 of us did it one speed, 2 of us another speed, and the last student was kind of off in his own world.

Master Riley actually said I was going too fast on it, which I though was funny since I was the big old dog out there with all the kids and usually I'm the one who feels like he's struggling to keep up. But the main point I think was that it's very hard to stay together on a fast form like Bassai, so for testing purposes it's imperative to go slow enough so that if people get out of sync they have time to adjust. I was doing the form at tournament-speed, which is obviously an error.

So the second time through I did it about half-speed, and with a very consistent rhythm. The kids fell into it quite nicely, and we got through it fine that time. Annoying though -- I've never had to do a form twice on any of my previous tests. That's the end of my "never had to do a form twice on a test" run. Oh well.

The real problems began when the 1st gup candidates had to do their forms. Of the three of them, only one (my classmate Kent) was solid and consistent throughout -- he made a couple of errors, but never froze up and always knew exactly where he went wrong and he corrected his errors on his second tries when necessary. The other two students, though, were far less composed. One had what appeared to be a very bad case of nerves, which happens, but which can really trip you up if you let it get too far up in your head during forms. All of a sudden, things you've done a thousand times before become unclear and confusing, everything starts running together, and then you're in the weeds. Still maanged to pull it together, but it took a long while. The other student, though, was a mess. Forgetting things all over the place. Just sort of wilting out there. It took forever to get through all of their forms.

And we sat. And sat. And sat. Both of my legs went completely to sleep. And then, when we got up again, it was time for horsestance punching -- an endurance drill, where we throw approximately 6-8 horsestance punches per second for about 45 seconds. In the best of circumstances this drill kills me because I tend to forget to breathe properly by about halfway through. But this time it was even worse, because both of my legs were a sleep and I felt like I was going to fall over. I died at bout the 35 seconds mark, my arms just sort of turning to spaghetti. I rallied after a bout 5 seconds and finished OK, but I was annoyed.

After that, it took me nearly 15 minutes to get my energy levels back up. Luckily I was paired with my friend Rich (who had come to the test specifically to be my partner for the sections of the test that required a partner) for the remaining portions of the test and he helped me get my mind back where it needed to be. By the time I finished demonstrating my one steps (only had to perform numbers 15 and 16, so that was a break at least -- Rich is 6'6", so dropping him is pretty tiring) I began to feel better, and after wrist grabs I was solidly back on the rails and ready to finish strong. Sparring was a ball -- for me and for my partners, I'd say -- Rich and Kent each took a turn, and we all put some stuff out there that got enthusiastic reactions from the folks that were watching and judging the test. And the history/terminology portion was a cakewalk for me, although the kids were largely unprepared and missed lots of things. Luckily, I knew my stuff cold so I was able to keep things from getting too ugly, but it was frustrating.

But then, there's the end of the test, and it's a total anticlimax. No advancement, no stripe awarded that day. We finished terminology and closing comments by the judges, lined up, bowed out, and were finished. So, fo rhte moment, I am still a 3rd gup.

This is not unusual at all -- the protocol followed by our organization is to not award new gup levels on test day unless all of the students have successfully completed the test. Several students failed portions of the test, and will have to get them right in class before they can be awarded their new rank. So no stripe for me, yet. I know I passed the test and did well, so I'm sure Master Nunan will be awarding me my stripe in my next class session (Monday night, probably). And I totally agree with this protocol -- there's no need to humiliate students who know they have not performed well by making them stand and watch while the others students get their rank. But still, it was the first time this has happened to me. Definitely ended a rough test on something of a down note.

Regardless, I did well. Aside from some minor critiques of the way in which I perform one of my kicks by a couple of the dans after the test (outside to inside defensive kick -- I do them more or less correctly, but the way I do them also makes them slower and much harder than they need to be) and some advice on how I'm switching my hands during kicking from Master Riley, I was told by enach and every person who judged or watched the test that I did very well. And I know I earned my stripe yesterday.

Anyway, some pictures. Almost all of these are from the forms portion of the test -- just seemed to be the only ones where I wasn't all blurry and/or making some sort of slackjawed stupid expression. Still, I think I look pretty good!

Oh well. On with the day. Im sure I'm feel better once I have that piece of tape on my belt.

Mood: Mildly melancholy, with a solid dose of ouchiness
Now Playing: Neko Case, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood"


Tom said...

Don't feel too bad about having to do the form twice. When people demonstrate Bassai at my testings, they usually have to do it at least 4-5 times, whether they "got it" or not. Part of it is an endurance test, part of it is a mental test.

But here's the big thing for me.. IMHO, Bassai is the first of the "big boy" forms, i.e. black belt hyung. I want to make sure that my students get this impression, as well as the impression that now they are under a little more of a microscope as they prepare to become yudanja.

It's my way of saying "the expectations just got a lot higher."

Gregg P. said...

Hi Tom, and thanks for your comment.

I don't feel too bad about having to redo Bassai, really. It was more of a point of pride, not having "messed up" on a form on any of my previous tests, including my last test where I had to perform each and every form we've learned thus far in sequence.

Realistically, though, I know it had to happen sometime, and I'm just pleased that it was due to a problem with the group staying together and not lack of preparation on my part.

I agree with your take on Bassai being among the first "big boy" forms, although I think there's an argument to be made that Chil Sung Ill Rho in really the first "big one" (in our curriculum at least -- not sure of the progression in forms training in the WTSDA). Like Bassai it is long, fairly complex, physically demanding and highly dynamic stuff that takes some real effort to learn and commit to memory, and tons more effort to perform well.

Anyhow, thanks for reading me! I'll be adding Sun In Sun Ka to my list of regularly reads going forward.

Tang Soo!


Melanie said...

Sounds like a frustrating test, but at least you did earn your stripe.