There were only two other adults testing and they were matched up with each other for the sparring time. So when my name was called, I ran up to the mark and looked at the young man who I’d be sparring against.
Very young, I’d put him at maybe eleven years old.
He’s a deputy black belt, and therefore not someone from my class (my class consists of teenagers and adults. When the command came to begin, I had already made my mind up to go easy on him.
That was my first mistake.
|Sang Kyu Shim author of "The making of a martial artist"|
When he did make contact, it was intense. Just goes to show, size really means nothing when it comes to Taekwondo.
For the first round, I struggled between wanting to do well against him, and hesitating to go all out because of his age and size.
Finally, I decided to give him back a little. After all, we were wearing protective gear; I could afford to get a few shots in. But I knew I had to engage soon, his youthful attack was wearing me out!
At one point he turned at me, leaving his chest fully exposed; instinctively I kicked.
And he was knocked to the ground and I felt terrible.
I offered him a hand up that he gladly took, smiling the whole time. Then we continued. Soon I forgot his age. His skill level and higher rank made up for that.
I’d like to say he held his own against me, but truthfully it was the other way around. Had they been keeping score, he would have been the victor.
I thought about Yoda, “Judge me by my size do you?”
At the end of the match we shook hands and he gave me a quick hug saying, “good job!”
As we went to sit down, I knew I had witnessed a young man who truly had an indomitable spirit. Later, as I was leaving the school, his father called over to me and said, “See you next time. I saw you today, you are very good!” I pointed to his son and said, “Thank you, so is he!”
The rest of my high red belt test went well. In fact, it went much better than any test before it. I attribute this to my weekend workouts. I was much more prepared.
Rather than just worrying about remembering my poomsae, I was focused on doing it well. Kicking techniques went off without a hitch.
For breaking, I had to break two boards with a tornado kick. Again, my weekend workouts assisted me, as I had been hitting the heavy bag with this kick. The seventeen-year-old black belt who held my boards, smiled widely and congratulated me when I executed the kick. The affirmation felt great. This kick was my greatest challenge until now. Being able to execute it correctly, with enough power to break two boards, was a big accomplishment for me.
Sunday came and I went out to my personal dojang to work out. I warmed up as normal with nunchakus, then did some stretching and moved right into poomsae.
It was around the seventh or eighth time going through Taegeuk Oh Jang that I came to a realization.
This is Taekwondo.
What I mean by that is, the pressure was off. I had tested with this poomsae and passed the test.
Yet here I was practicing it, over and over, for the simple pleasure of doing it. The two poomsae I have worked in to memory, Oh jang and Yuk Jang, are becoming a part of me. To neglect them would be to neglect my own body. I could not just kick back this Sunday; happy I had earned a new belt. I needed to spend time doing Teakwondo
It was a moment of clarity for me and I thought about it further as I was covered in sweat, stretching. I have crossed over a barrier; something inside me has changed, or perhaps grown stronger.
I began this journey as a white belt who had lost pretty much all he had learned over thirty years ago, but now, almost two years later, my body is stronger and more flexible. I stretch daily and I work out four times a week.
Looking at my high red belt with its white stripe, I realized that the familiar white in the belt signifies a new beginning for me.
Perhaps I truly am on my way to becoming a martial artist.