Monday, November 09, 2009

Roles and Responsibilities

So, it's now a solid 6 months or so since I tested for my Cho Dan, and nearly 3 months since I was officially promoted to my new rank and received my midnight blue belt. You'd think there'd be a lot to talk about, a lot to express and roll around in this blog, and yet ….

So. Why so quiet?

Hard for me to say, really. Training is going very well, although I seem to have a few injuries that simply don't want to settle down. My neck and shoulders keep getting messed up, which is not exactly conducive to getting much sparring time in. Overall, though, things are going great at my new rank.

Oddly, though, I find that I'm having some trouble settling into being a Cho Dan. It's not that I'm not training, or participating in the dojang. I still train a minimum of 3-4 times a week. I am actively engaged in our dojang community, working with people who need a hand, and just trying to add to the family feeling of our group.

I just seem to be having a tough time determining who I am as a Cho Dan versus who I was as a gup. The role still feels like a brand new pair of blue jeans that I haven't quite shrunk to fit just yet. I think that after 3.5 years of being something of a lone wolf, of being the only adult at my precise rank (and as a result outranking a number of other adults that I went on to test for Cho Dan with, and all of whom now outrank me), I'm just having a bit of trouble defining myself and my role as I see it now that I'm wearing blue.

Now, don't get me wrong on this: it's not a feeling of frustration or anger at being the junior after years of being the senior in my peer group. Actually, I kind of love not having to always call the class to attention, not having to assume the role of senior on testing days by organizing all of the gups for proctoring and whatnot. I am completely fine with being a junior. It's just that, after so many years of being in one sort of groove, it's been tough for me to settle in and feel comfortable.

One of the things I've been told by many, many more experienced martial artists is that achieving your Cho Dan is never supposed to be viewed as "finishing" -- rather, it's very nearly the exact opposite. It's more akin to finally being ready to truly begin. I guess a part of my unease is related to this sense of being back at the beginning, of starting over again.

I'm doing very well with the new curriculum I've learned, but it's been like drinking from the firehouse some days, and retaining all of the new material has proven difficult on the best of days. Some evenings I can work through new techniques -- such as elbow strikes, or knife defense -- without much of a hiccup. Other nights I'm completely blank, as if the knowledge just got shoved out of my head when I wasn't looking. After being so confident in my techniques and my grasp of the curriculum for the past couple of years, once again feeling like a wet-behind-the-ears white belt has been humbling.

But in a good way. I don't mean it to sound as if I'm demotivated, or discouraged. Quite the opposite, really. I enjoy being challenged by this new material. I just need to adjust to feeling unsteady and unsure again.

One thing I've really tried to embrace is finding opportunities to begin teaching other students. I'm trying to develop myself and my ability to articulate the techniques of our art so that I can help with classes at our dojang, with the goal being to test for my Kyo Sa (certified instructor) as a part of my Ee Dan test. I think I have some native ability as a teacher -- I feel I'm able to articulate things clearly using words, and I think my demeanor strikes a pretty good balance between being encouraging and requiring respect and attention. Not to say I don't have ton to learn. But I think the core skills are there, and the desire to make them better.

The main problem is that my schedule limits my access to the dojang during the majority of hours when my assistant teaching services might be needed. I've begun assisting with the Saturday children's and family classes, and that seems to be going well. I know I have a lot to learn, but I think that my desire to help and my love of the art will go a long way toward making up for my shortcomings and inexperience as a teacher. And maybe once I've got a little more teaching time under my belt I can speak with Sa Bom Nim about adding some class times in the early morning hours, when my schedule is more flexible.

So, I guess the biggest thing I've figured out is that my new role is going to be one of a student and a teacher. I feel that's where I belong. And while I think I have a pretty good grip on how to be a good student, now I just need to learn how to teach.

Heh. Yeah. Just need to learn how to teach. That's all.

Mood: Bemused
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