Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wear and Tear

I'm at 16 days and counting until my Cho Dan test, and it's driving me nuts.

Now, let me explain. I feel solid and well prepared. Aside from adding an extra coat of polish to my hyungs, ho sin sul, and il soo sik daryun, I don't feel there's much else I can do to prepare for this test. I think I'm solid. I think I'll probably make a mistake or two early on, in line drills, as I typically do. I'l mishear something in Korean, or will lose focus for a second or two and wind up executing an technique incorrectly or exceptionally sloppily. But then, having gotten that initial error out of the way, my nerves will settle down and I'll have a good test. That's how this stuff tends to go for me,

But the waiting is driving me nuts. I'm training like crazy, 5 or 6 days a week, not because I feel that I won't be ready if I don't train like mad but because I feel like if I don't keep busy and keep my mind off the test then it will never get here. Or I'll start freaking out, second guessing myself all over the place. Arrrgh!

Of course, the downside of all this training is I'm really kind of physically drained a lot of the time. I feel good, but my stamina while training is kinda lacking. I'm tending to run out of steam a bit too quickly, although I recover quickly as well. But my muscles, particularly my thigh muscles, are not exactly thrilled to be getting such a thorough working over so regularly. And my ankles and knees are considerably less pliable and more creaky than usual. As of next week I'm going to have to scale my training way back, just to ensure I don't go and injure myself while trying to distract myself. Which will undoubtedly have the wonderful side effect of making the last week running up to the test seem to last 3 or 4 months.

I say it again: Arrgh!

Of course, I should be able to distract myself with other things in the meantime, not the least of which is planning the post-Dan Test Party, which will be occurring at my house. I am currently obsessing about how many people, how much beer/wine/juice to acquire, how much food, when will the test end, when will the party begin, and what on Earth will it be like to have the Grandmaster of our organization in my house.

Now, Kwan Jhang Nim is a really nice guy, and I've met him on numerous occasions so I'm not worried about it in a realistic way -- it's really more just nervous energy manifesting as OCD by whatever means possible. No doubt this will continue for the next couple of weeks, without fail.

Good God, I'm a bundle of nerves, here. The 30th can't come soon enough!


Like most martial artists I know, I have several dobakhs that I train in. Part of this is simple necessity -- I work out often, I sweat a lot, so unless I want to do laundry pretty much every single night I need to have a few backups around just to keep from stinking up the joint. However, a lot of folks have what they consider their favorite uniform. For me it's my first "good uniform," a nice heavyweight cotton dobakh I bought when I hit 3rd gup (red belt).

The basic dobakhs we use are a polyester/cotton blend, which is sturdy, but which also doesn't breathe very well. As I said I tend to sweat a lot when I work out, and the polycotton uniforms stick to my skin once I've got a good head of steam going. Once they get sticky they tend to prevent air from circulating under the dobakh, and it gets pretty damn uncomfortable, pretty fast.

The cotton uniforms, on the other hand, tend to be a bit stiffer and to allow more airflow, while also wicking more sweat away from the skin. I still soak the things through, but my body feels way more comfortable throughout my workout. As an added bonus, the crisper fabric makes a much more satisfying "whoosh" and "pop" sound when executing fast techniques. All in all, a way more enjoyable experience while training.

So when I hit red belt -- in September 2007, nearly 19 months ago -- I ordered a really nice cotton uniform, got it trimmed in red by a local seamstress that used to train with us, and had the logo of our dojang embroidered on the back. And I've worn it every chance I had since then, typically at least 2-3 times per week, using my backup polycotton dobakhs in between sessions when the good one was in the wash.

And this, after nearly 2 years, is the result:
The wear and tear on my dobakh has been ... fascinating. The very high quality fabric trim, after several months of smaller tears and holes appearing along the edges, has begun disintegrating. I think the only reason it still looks even passably trimmed is the 5 lines of stitching that holds the scraps of remaining fabric in place.
The color of the embroidery thread on the back seems to have oxidized (perhaps due to using non-chlorine bleach), fading the red somewhat but especially changing the blue. It used to be a vibrant primary-color style blue, and is now a dark slate gray color...
I've worn small holes in portions of the pants and near the seams. I recently tore a gaping hole beneath one of the arms without realizing it while training in Haidong Gumdo (Korean sword) -- didn't notice the hole until a friend pointed it out while I was practicing a form a little while later. I've patched it back together each time, although there's really nothing I can do about the embroidery on the back.

But the worn trim has been something of a point of pride for me -- it didn't get that way by itself. There's a lot of hours of training in that dobakh, and that worn trim is the most visible evidence of this fact. I've had plenty of compliments from other folks who train who understand that all that wear and tear is the result of a lot of dedication and time spent on the mat.

I love my dobakh.

But I can't go to my Cho Dan test wearing a dobakh that looks like that. No matter how much pride I take in it, it would be wrong to get in front of Kwan Jhang Nim and the Texas Kodanja of our organization in something that is so clearly on its last legs. It's not the little stuff that's the problem -- the tears I can fix well enough, and the embroidery is not something that looks anything other than weathered and faded.

But that trim? I can't show up on test day with trim that looks like that. It would be disrespectful, and I'm sure that giving any sense of disrespect on test day would be a tactical error of fairly enormous magnitude which would probably result in an even more grueling test day for me.

So, my options are simple. I could, of course, simply retire this dobakh before the test, and instead wear one of my polycotton backup dobakhs. But frankly, this is supremely unappealing to me. Besides the discomfort factor, there's the simple fact that I have enormous sentimental attachment to my dobakh. I've spent a tremendous amount of time in that dobakh, and I want to wear it to the test. I'm attached to it. It represents my pride and my commitment to the art, the dedication and effort I've shown on the past 3.5 years. It's me.

Thus my only option: I need to get it re-trimmed by test day. That'll make it look spiffy enough that I don't look like a slob on test day. Unfortunately, it also erases some of the appeal of this dobakh for me -- the ragged quality. The nearly destroyed trim is the most clear and obvious evidence of my work, my time, and my sweat that I have. But the thought of not wearing this dobakh to my test is way worse than re-trimming is. And this way it'll look good for the next few weeks, and the following month or so until I am officially promoted and can wear my new midnight blue trimmed uniform.

But I'll miss that old red trim.

Mood: Happy, impatient
Now Playing: The Time, "Ice Cream Castle"


David said...

I understand your attachement to your Do Bahk. I train in Soo Bahk Do and tested for Dan in October of 07. I bought another uniform a few months before my test and wore it regularly so it was a bit worn but still looked better than my old stinky, stained uniform.
Good luck on your test. By the sounds of it you are training enough to do very well. Don't leave anything on the mat, give it everything you've got.

Gregg P. said...

Thanks for your comment, David, and for your best wishes. SBD, huh? I'm sure you're aware of our common lineage -- what organization do you train with? As for giving my all, the only thing I'm planning on leaving on the mat on test day is about 2+ gallons of sweat! Thanks for the support.