Relax Grasshopper

Well, my 6 year old and my husband got their blue belts on Saturday, and here I sit still an orange belt. My daughter Em was invited to a party that interfered with the belt test. I chose to take her to the party and we’ll test this coming Saturday. If you knew the heartbreak she and I went through last year after our move, you’d understand why I didn’t put Tae Kwon Do first. Last year at this time, she was lucky to have one friend, and now finally this year she has several. I feel it’s my duty to make sure that she cultivates whatever friendships she has. The thing that I find interesting (but not surprising), is out of the four people at the party, she was the only girl. She takes after her mother.

Anyhoo, I am SO done with the orange belt requirements and I’m ready to move on. The one thing I have a problem with, and I’m so glad that it isn’t part of the test, is sparring. Almost every class we practice paired up applications with your typical etiquette. One side attacks and the other defends, and you stop. Then the same side attacks and defends, usually about 6 times in a row, then we switch sides so the other side attacks. Rinse and repeat. It’s structured, we are usually doing it to a count the instructor is giving. This part, I have no problem with. It’s when we move on to one to one that my brain seizes up and I suddenly am the worst partner to have in the room. In one to one, we start like we do with paired up applications, but then instead of the pause between “sets”, we keep going, usually using only kicks. Instead of relaxing into it, I tense up and I can only jump back or evade, counterattacking doesn’t come naturally to me. I seem too concerned about foot positions and I can’t think of what kick works with what stance I’m in. So I wind up doing the same kick over and over. I’m not sure how to overcome this obstacle. It doesn’t help that this usually happens in the last 15 minutes of a 45 minute class when the sweat is dripping off of me and I’m totally sucking wind. One black belt (who I like the most) is tall and tends to come right at me. Usually I can’t do much more than block his attacks, forget about counterattacking. I’m not sure how much of this is inexperience. A more advanced student in the class had so much patience with me. I felt near tears and told him I was struggling, and he kindly told me just to slow it down. I think I’m going to try practicing with my husband at least once a week at home and see if I can’t get more comfortable with it.

And Grandmaster, gotta love him, seems the most intuitive man. I was getting my gear off after class and he comes up to me and says “You are going to make a great black belt!” I don’t know if he realized I needed that encouragement at that moment, or if he finally got a good look at how I was doing. Grandmaster doesn’t normally lead class. It’s usually his daughter or another black belt who lead, but he took over today. We were going over Poomsae since a lot of people had to learn a new one after testing last weekend, and other than a few minor tweaks, he seemed pleased with my forms. Steve had a private lesson with him tonight and he told him to ask me to consider taking a private lesson or two a month with him. He told Steve that I was really good, but with a little extra one on one practice I could be great. It feels good to have my hard work recognized. It makes me wish I could fast track to black belt, but I believe that the structure that is currently in place (3 months + between belts after orange belt) is a benefit. Mostly because by the time we are testing for black belt, we have to have learned and perform everything from white belt up. From memory. Without mistakes.

It’s something I’m going to be thinking about for a while. I’ve always been above average at whatever activity I choose to do, whether it is softball or spinning yarn. Having someone believe I can be great at something is a hell of a pat on the back. And so the countdown begins until October of 2010. Keeping my current schedule, that will be my first opportunity to test for black belt.

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