So, the test.
This is a complicated topic. Unexpectedly so.
Well, first things first. I did very, very well. I have to do a retest on board breaking -- there was seriously bad board breaking karma in the room, and all but one of the Cho Dan candidates was unable to break on test day. I think it was a combination of crappy wood, fatigued testing candidates, and tired board holders. No matter -- board breaking is hardly a core principal in our art, nor is it something that typically presents much of a challenge for me. A 3 board jump back kick is a tough break, but I've done it easily in the past, and I'm not worried about being able to do it again. Will probably do so tonight, and that will be that. I am very proud of my performance.
Miranda did beautifully. Line drills were solid, and her jump spin kick drills were out of this world -- she was getting unbelievable air (see below). Unfortunately she froze up a bit on Naihanji Chodan and will have to retest on it -- it took her three tries before she was able to get through it, so retesting is appropriate. She was quite crestfallen after that, and had a bit of trouble getting herself back on track, but ultimately she was able to demonstrate all of her techniques well. Like me, she was unable to do her break, so she'll be retesting on that as well. I'm not concerned -- she did beautifully, and I am insanely proud of her.
And my mother did beautifully too. No serious errors of which I am aware (although honestly I couldn't really watch her, as I was sort of busy at the time...). She also will have to retest on board breaking, but that's it. In fact, as a group I am extremely pleased with everyone I tested with. I've seen far worse Dan tests in my time, and I've seen better. There were some bumps, but all in all the group showed tremendous spirit and accomplished what they set out to do.
So yeah, barring anything unexpected, we will all be promoted to cho dan shortly.
So, I should be overjoyed, right? All the work and dedication and sweat and tears paid off. But I'm not. I'm ... conflicted. Because what should have been a day of joyous energy and excitement turned out to be ... well, simply put, it was not a good experience.
In fact, parts of it were downright shitty.
Basically, we had a Sa Bom on the board -- no names here, but this was someone I would have until recently considered a casual friend -- who arrived for our test with what would appear to be no other goal than to fail everyone. EVERYONE. And to humiliate and browbeat the candidates. Yes, this included the kids. And if you think this behavior had a negative effect on the ability of the candidates -- of the kids in particular -- to test well, of course you'd be right.
I'm still a bit too close to this to accurately and adequately convey the testing experience I had. I'm still processing, trying to separate my own experience from the rather profoundly negative feelings I've developed after leaving the dojang and having a chance to think long and hard about the attitude of this Sa Bom and having spoken with so many other parents that witnessed his utterly shameful behavior.
I continue to be dumbfounded by his arrogance, his almost comical lack of humility, and his absurd dedication to demanding excellence to avoid "watering down" the techniques of our art while simultaneously showing a complete and utter disregard for or ignorance of the principals that are supposed to be the underpinnings of our art. But mostly I'm disgusted, and disappointed, at how one person could so thoroughly poison what should have been a truly great day in my training, in my daughters training, in the lives of our family and friends.
I also wonder just how much damage was done to our students by this man. If there was a single moment in the test that was encouraging and motivating, I honestly can't recall it. Kids are resilient, so perhaps this won't stick, perhaps they weren't demoralized by this idiocy. I hope not.
So, what to do? Well, letters will be written to our leadership, at the least. My wife and I have already drafted a letter that we will be sending shortly. I can't even consider staying quiet on this. I'm a fixer by nature, and I can't just sit idly by and assume that this will go away and get better somehow. Beyond that, I don't know. I'd say that a number of friendships have now been permanently severed, certainly on my part, as a result of this.
While I may have done very well on my exam, I take the behavior exhibited by this Sa Bom as a personal attack on me and my family -- my WHOLE family. All of my friends. Their children. My dojang family. And frankly, anyone who tries to dismiss or in any way excuse his behavior can consider themselves excused from my life.
So, that's what I've got for now. I'm sorry if it's not the rousing test experience story you were hoping for -- Lord knows it's not the one I wanted to tell.
But it's the only one I've got.
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