Spent pretty much the entire day today proctoring gup tests at our dojang. First gups are reponsible for proctoring the gup tests (calling the various techniques that those who are testing must perform throughout hte test) while the yudanjanim and kodanjanim present (cho dans through 3rd dans and 4th dan on up, respectively) sit at the testing board and grade the participants. Prior to the last dan test there was only one other gup in our dojang who was my senior, a teenager named Kent who is about 3 months ahead of me, but he just tested for dan and therefore no longer has to proctor (n fact he assisted in grading on two of thes tests, event though he hasn't officially been promoted yet -- that occurs next month). So, as the now-ranking senior 1st gup in the dojang it fell to me to ensure that the tests were adequately -- and correctly -- proctored by the red belts who showed up to help out.
Obviously, I take this stuff pretty seriosuly, so I committed myself to being present for the entirety of all three tests today. Testing started at 9:30 this morning. I only participated in the actual protoring of the orange and green belt tests, while on the white belt test I simply assigned various sections to the young red belts who were there to help out and tried to make sure any questions they had were answered. Happily, all three tests went smoothly, proctoring errors -- by myself and others -- were minimal, and we wrapped up by 5:00.
It was a terrific day of testing. Two very large testing groups -- 19 students for the white belt test, and 22 for the orange belts test -- followed by a very small green belt group (only 6). The students in each and every test were uniformly well prepared and solid. The orange belts really could have used a bit more energy for their test -- by halfway through they were losing focus and concentration, and when the kids started sparring it was literally silent in the room. Not a kiyap to be heard during SPARRING! So while they did well, the testing board made sure to warn them that failing to keep the energy up throughout the test would really start messing them up as they advance, as when the tests start getting really challenging (especially the red belt test) they're gonna need that juice. Regardless, everyone performed skillfully and well.
The green belt test was a true pleasure. As I said, it was a small group. Only 6 people, 5 kids and 1 adult. 1 6th gup, 3 5th, and 2 4th going for their red belts. The green belt test is where things start getting really tough, particularly in the case of those 4th gups testing for red belt. Lots of material to cover, lots of opportunity to get lost or come off the rails, particularly for kids. But these guys were all exemplary -- well prepared, solid grasp of all of the fundamentals, and level headed. Their energy was fairly solid throughout, although it flagged a bit toward the end. I think that's as much a statement about the much larger dojang space we now inhabit -- almost 1900 square feet of mat space -- as it is about the candidates. It's tiring trying to fill that much space with energy, especially for such a small group. Regardless, they got through it all without any serious issues at all and the test finished in record time -- under 2 hours and we were out of there.
But by far my favorite part of the day was the white belt test. I had several adult friends testing for their orange belts -- Vickie and Aaron, who are my testing buddy Kayleigh's parents (Kayleigh, 9, is the only other student in the school who I have tested with every single time I have tested since orange belt), and Pieter (my exceptionally talented physical therapist friend who is also Miranda's judo instructor and the dad of another 1st gup I've tested with, Ben, who like Kayleigh is also 9). So, it was fun to watch for those reasons alone.
But while watching the test, something occurred to me: Today, December 13th, marked exactly 3 years to the day since my first Tang Soo Do lesson. Three years ago I first stepped onto the mat and struggled with fear and lack of confidence and a body that just wouldn't do the things I was telling it to do. And here I am, a 1st gup deeply engaged in as much of the art and the dojang life as my life and time permit, proctoring exams and looking forward to my own dan test, less than 6 months from now. I looked at the white belts, some of them struggling with movements I now find almost second nature, and I felt this swell of pride. Not in myself but in them. It reminded me of watching my kids taking their first wobbly steps. I remember seeing my kids' awkwardness, their stiffness and tension and wobbly gaits, and all I could think was "well, there it is. They've learned to walk. It'll only be a matter of time before they can run."
And this felt like that -- I felt this odd excitement, like I was witnessing the beginning of something fantastic, and felt so fortunate that I could be there to see it, and that I'm going to get to watch them (at least the ones who stick with training) learn to skip, then jog, and then run. Who knows, some of them might even be almost able to fly one day. I just know that I'm so incredibly lucky to be able to experience it along with them.
Mood: Tired, a little misty
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