Sunday, August 10, 2008

Made of Pain

Yeah, the title pretty much sums up how I feel today. Getting out of bed was a challenge, getting down the stairs even more so.

Everything hurts.

My Il Gup test was, in a word, grueling. A marathon of an exam, clocking in at over 5 hours start to finish, with only brief periods of rest throughout. To top it off, Master Riley's dojang was quite warm for much of the test, due to his accidentally forgetting to reset the A/C when it went off automatically at 1:00. Luckily we had ceiling fans moving plenty of air around, so it wasn't unbearable.

Line drills went on for a solid 30-40 minutes, followed immediately by jump and jump spin kicking drills, then right into forms. Forms clocked in around 45 minutes or so for the 5 of us testing for il gup, largely due to a number of candidates who were blanking or simply unprepared. Thankfully I was pretty solid throughout, making only a couple of minor errors.

Made one dumb error on Gicho Hyung Sam Bu (I didn't even realize I'd made it -- stepping out into a reinforced block instead of a low block when I turned to head up the center the first time). Master Riley called me out on it, and I know what the correct movement should be but was honestly unaware I'd done a different move. I asked permission to re-do it but they let me off the hook. Then, on my last form (Chil Sung Sahm Rho) I simply lost focus at the tail end of the middle of the form and was unsure of whether I'd done a move correctly, so I bowed out and re-did it. The judges aid they were pretty sure I hadn't screwed up, but I figure I'd already lost focus, so it would have only been a matter of time until I messed up anyhow. Better to just re-do it.

Then came my least favorite part of testing, horse stance punching. Endurance punching, for 45 seconds (usually actually a minute -- not sure how long they ran the clock on us yesterday). I was pretty solid on it this time, and didn't get too winded, so that was nice. Still, this part of testing always leaves me my most spent and deflated during the testing day. One step sparring and wrist grabs follow, so I always hope to be paried with a really good partner, someone who will help me to get my energy and spirit back up so I can finish strong.

And, well, that just wasn't the case yesterday. My partner had an almost complete lack of energy, particularly for a kid his age. Barely kicking above his knee, punching slowly and no where near my head or face, and generally demonstrating all the energy and discipline of a scarecrow. I take pride in my ability to kind of blow through my one steps, knocking them out hard and fast, with barely any pauses, back and forth between me and my partner until they're all done and we're both winded but proud. That was just not gonna happen with this kid, though. He was unsure of his technique, and this lac of confidence and focus just drained the life out both of us.

We got through one steps fine (at least I did), but after they were done all I wanted to do was just kind of punch the clock for the rest of the test. Get it done. Demonstrate and acceptable if uninspired improvised one step, blow through the wrist grabs (again, no energy, no focus, no confidence on his part), do an improvised self defense movement (got to do that one with someone a little more together, and had a bit of fun -- it was a double lapel grab, and I broke it with a doble high block, followed by a double knife hand to the throat, a knee strike to the face, dropped him to the matt, finished with a solid punch tot he head. No contact of course, but man, if there had been ...). Just get it done.

When it came time tos par, I was a bit apprehensive. I tore a ligament in my foot last week, one deep inside behind the ball of the foot that keeps the long bones of the foot together. It was hurting pretty constantly all through testing, but after about 4 hours of working out on it I really began to feel as though I had a 10 Penny nail stuck in my foot, especially when I bounced up on the ball of my foot. When I spar, I tend to do a lot of bouncing and rocking on the balls of my feet, so I knew it was going to be agony. As luck would have it, though, Master Riley excused anyone who'd attended Nationals last month from sparring. So yay!

Then we moved on to 2-on-1 sparring, and I realized I needed to think about whether I should take part. It's not really considered a necessary part of testing -- I've never seen anyone fail for not managing to perform well, and apparently it's only considered mandatory at the dan level. I'd been prepared to push through the pain for ordinary sparring, since at least it's more controlled and I could use techniques that would keep the weight off my right foot. But 2-on-1 is a completely different beast, with lots of quick lateral movement and direction changes: all of it would be hitting on pain spots. So I decided to just admit that I needed to wimp out on this: I asked to approach the judging table, explained that I would like to be excused from this portion of the test as I had an injury that was really giving me trouble, and was excused without a problem.

I kind of hated doing that, but at the same time I need to accept that sometimes my body is not going to cooperate, and I can't risk making things worse just to feed my ego.


Anyway, the test ended about an hour later, following some fairly harsh criticism by the judges regarding the lack of preparation and energy on the part of many of the testing candidates. Needless to say, no stripes were awarded yesterday, as many (most) of the candidates require some re-testing. This part of the test is always hard for me. It's not that I want a parade or anything like that, but when it comes down to it, I know I performed very well yesterday. I also know (as I was informed by 5 of the judges afterward) that I passed outright, and will not need to retest on anything for attain my rank.

The critiques by the judges were largely directed at those students who arrived unprepared, who were unmotivated. But of course, the result of that is that I get little or no feedback pertaining the my performance on test day. I get no real feedback on where I need to improve, what I did well, what I could have done better, because in contrast to some of the testing candidates, I was exemplary.

This is part of why I'm so relieved that this was the last test I'll be taking where I'm one of the only, if not the only adult testing in a group of children. My next test will be for cho dan, and I will be testing with at least 5 or 6 other adults from my dojang, as well as several other adults from our brother/sister dojangs in the area. And after 2.5 years of testing almost exclusively with kids, I can't wait.

Testing with kids is exhausting, not because they are so small and fast, but because they just don't bring energy, share energy, give energy back to the other people in the room. They don't understand what it feels like to honestly be at the end of your rope, really ready to drop, to really need the energy from a partner to get you going again. These last two testing experiences were grueling, and while they are obviously designed to be such, they don't need to be so frustrating.

So, yay me. I should have my stripe following my next class, and then I can begin counting the days for my long wait until I test for cho dan. I'm scheduled for May 2009. 9 solid months until then.

Doesn't seem so long at all.

Mood: Owie
Now Playing: Nothing


Susan LaGrande said...

Hi Gregg -

Whew! Your testing does indeed sound grueling. I really appreciate hearing about it in such detail, since I am now preparing for the same test in October. We've had two pre-testing sessions in which I have done pretty well, and we are being guided through our preparations with a detailed handbook outlining physical and spiritual exercises to be done from now until the test. I find myself challenged by them daily.

I know what you mean about how a dispirited testing partner can really sap your energy. Be assured, however, that the judges are very aware of the contrast between your effort and your partner's laziness. Certainly you need feedback, but I guess this is one time when no news is good news.

Your essays were great. I really feel inspired by your example.

Yours in Tang Soo Do,


kodanja (dot) net said...

Happy belated birthday Gregg, and congratulations on your promotion to 1st gup.

Know and appreciate that you are not alone in your situation on natural skill vs hard work. While some people may consider me to be pretty good at this TSD stuff, it takes me that same extra effort to even remain on par with many of my peers.

Hard work does have it rewards.

Hope you and your family are doing well.