Friday, June 27, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things- Bev the Athlete

Thanks to our host Viklit and co-hosts Diana Wilder, L.G. Keltner, Cyborg Mom and CaffeMaggieato!

So I know you're all dying to know how it went last week, right?  I'm sort of glad I didn't write immediately because with a week past the event I can say what I couldn't directly afterwards: I think it was actually pretty damned good.

As I've previously said, I am one of the most self-critical people on the planet so of course directly following everything all I could see was how many mental errors I made during forms, how disappointed I was that I didn't get all my breaks, how much cleaner I performed the self defense take-downs during practice.  I even had to run off the floor after breaking to go cry in the bathroom because I'd built it up so much in my head and was so angry at myself for not getting everything perfect (by far my biggest failure of the test).

But in hindsight I can see how ridiculously harsh I was being.  Why?  Because I've had a chance to watch some of the videos Dave was nice enough to take for me and I could see that for every mental error I made the other candidates- people who I truly look up to and judge as far superior to myself in terms of ability- made just as many.  For every break that took me two or three tries they needed just as many shots to complete theirs.  No one was fluid and graceful when doing take-downs.  We were all so damned nervous that we ended up performing at a lower level than we had in class when practicing the same thing.

And something that the master of the gym has reminded us (and everyone else about to take the test) of: they all know that.  They've seen us practicing these moves over and over and they know whether or not we have the technique.  They've seen us practice the breaks in class and get them the first time because it isn't the test and the pressure doesn't make us fumble.  They know the level of martial artists we are because they've seen us every class, week after week, year after year.  They know.

So yeah, I think I did pretty well.  It took me three tries to get my 360 degree spinning back kick- but I got it.  And I made some mental errors during forms, but I immediately corrected each one and pounded out each move as if my life depended on it.  And I knew what I was doing, even if the take-downs weren't as fluid as I'd like.  And anything I'm dissatisfied with I will have time to do again- after all, 4th Dan is only 4 years away.  And in the mean time I'm thinking of some other goals for myself.

The biggest change from this test to those past was my level of physical preparation leading up to it.  I've said several times on here that I trained harder for this than I ever have for anything in my life.  What that actually lead to was a physical endurance test which ended up being sort-of easy for me.  There were challenging parts, yes and I didn't get through every single challenge with flying colors.  But I did better than I have in the past.  And the big change was that the day after the test I wasn't that sore.  Past tests I was so sore from lactic acid build-up in my muscles that I could barely move.  This time?  Almost nothing- certainly no worse than a particularly strenuous workout at the the gym.  That's huge, and a clear indication of how much my hard work has genuinely changed my physique.

The other huge change this has brought about is that I'm not satisfied.  Yes, the test is the most epic thing I've ever done in my life so far as facing down and conquering my own physical limitations.  But can I do more?  A friend of mine suggested I take up running because there are races year round and I could perpetually have something to work towards.  I've always hated running, always said that I just didn't understand runners, and always secretly resented myself for not being better at it.  But I've been running a decent bit leading up to the test in preparation and, as previously stated, I'm in a lot better shape physically.

So yesterday after doing the normal aerobics class at the gym I got on the treadmill .  At first I thought I'd just do a mile, but then I thought I could do more.  So I went a mile and a half.  Then two miles.  Then I thought that maybe a 5K really wasn't such a huge goal.  So I ran 5K- and I didn't have to stop to walk once.

So now I'm thinking that half marathon my friend suggested wouldn't be so impossible.  I have to train more, certainly.  But if this test has taught me anything it's that I'm capable of so much more than I ever believed I was.  So why the hell not?  Stay tuned...

P.S.  I don't officially get promoted to 3rd Dan until September so expect some pictures when that comes about.  And if I can find any pictures from the test that don't look terrible I'll post them here.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

What I'm Doing Today... and Tomorrow

Depending on what time you are reading this post I may be in the midst of an instructor's clinic learning about Chinese forms and pressure points or, if you're catching up later in the evening, I may have already begun my 3rd Dan black belt test.  Either way, I'm going to tell you guys about the later part.


The black belt test encompasses everything I have learned in my training to this point so there's A LOT to review and the graded part (Friday night) takes several hours because of this.  While they change the order from year to year this is what we'll be doing:
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Forms (Hyungs)- everything from our most basic to our most advanced, a total of 16 forms altogether.  I've also been told that I will be asked to do a solo performance of my open tournament form.  I feel more confident about my ability to perform these at a high level than I do anything else in my test which is a good thing since they're the forte of our school overall.
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Breaking- tracing back to the martial history of the sport and demonstrating the force it would take to break through wooden armor.  You have to do three stations, one of which is a required break (i.e. they pick it).  Mine are a straight down punch through one board in the form Lo Hai (the required break), an elbow strike, hammer fist and then back kick in sequence (each through one board) and then my 360 degree spinning back kick through two boards (which I finally got through last class in practice so there's no reason I can't rock it in the test).
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One steps- a series of combination techniques involving our basic punches and kicks in a specific sequence performed on another person so we can show that we know where to place each technique.  There's 18 of them altogether.
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Self- Defense- a series of Aikido techniques designed to help one reverse various grab attacks- either opposite hand, same hand or two handed grabs.  We have to do a total of 12 for 3rd Dan (by 4th Dan I think we'll need up to 16).
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Knife defense- techniques designed to defend against three types of attacks- a straight-in stab, a single slash or a double slash.  There's a total of six techniques that we do first in sequence and then at random as the attacker switches up their attacks and we have to read their movement and respond to them.  (No, we don't use real knives.  But yes, not knowing what the other person is going to throw at you does make it a heck of a lot harder!)

Kicking- We go through every single one of our kicks from the most basic to the most advanced.  I feel pretty good about my basic and jumping kicks, but my jump spinning kicks are probably the weakest of my entire inventory.  Hopefully that won't bring down my overall grade too much.
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Two-on-one fighting: Two people try to attack you, your goal is to avoid getting stuck in the middle.  Relatively self-explanatory.
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Terminology- they call out techniques in Korean and we perform them.  Requires memorization (so you know what each command is) and performance at a high level.  I feel fine about this part since it hasn't changed since the last test.
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And finally, history: they give us a verbal exam on the history of Tang Soo Do with questions ranging from describing the characteristics of each of the four colored belts in the original belt system to listing the principles of Tang Soo Do to counting to ten in either Chinese or Korean.  (Arguably the easiest part of the test since all it requires is for you to memorize a few pages of information.)

We are allowed to fail one portion of our test and still pass overall.  Most people fail by not getting all of their breaks.  I've never known anyone to fail kicking, forms or terminology.  My hope is obviously to pass every section with flying colors. 

And tomorrow...
Nothing is graded, nothing is judged, all we have to do is not quit.  They'll lead us through hours of grueling, physically taxing exercises which we have to complete.  Push ups till your arms give out.  Jumping jacks till your legs stop working.  Sparring 20 people in a row- stuff like that.  Our bodies will tell us "You're done.  You can't do this anymore.  It's too hard/ hurts too much.  You don't have anything left."  And our brains will say "Shut up and go."  And that's the entire point- mind over matter.
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Why do they do this?  Because in real life you have no control over the conditions in which you face an attacker.  Whether or not you've had any sleep, whether or not you've stretched, whether or not you're in any kind of condition to be defending yourself- but you still have to defend yourself.  So in the test when you haven't had any sleep and you're sore and exhausted and physically just done you still have to spar- same rules apply. 

And while I hope that I never find myself in a situation where I need to use anything that I've ever learned I still have the knowledge that I got through the tests.  It's an experience unlike anything I've ever been through and at the end of it I am more proud myself than I have ever been.  And no one- ever- can take that away from me.  And at the end of this test- my hardest test- I suspect that I will feel better than I ever, ever have.  Because I'm going to kick ass!

Wish me luck!

This has been part of the Celebrate the Small Things bloghop.
Thanks to our host Viklit and co-hosts Diana Wilder, L.G. Keltner, Cyborg Mom and CaffeMaggieato

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things- June 13th

Thanks to our host Viklit and co-hosts Diana Wilder, L.G. Keltner, Cyborg Mom and CaffeMaggieato

Well, guys- this is it.  One week- exactly 7 days- till the test.  I am nervous beyond words, but also so, so excited.  The closer it's gotten the harder it's become to wait for the actual day- that a familiar feeling for you all?  I think for me it's partially because I do just want to get it over with so I can feel that blessed relief when it's over, partially because I really do believe I'm ready and want to get there, perform and prove it to myself and partially because it's been on my mind so much I want it to come before I literally go mad with anticipation.

I have been training especially hard this week since next week I actually need to rest up in preparation for the physical energy I will expend come test time (counter-intuitive, but that's how it works).  I've been doing my usual workouts each morning and then running on the track.  I'll start with a mile and a half and then keep going  just to show myself that I can since it's all mind over body anyway.  After that I'll do a rep of 5 or 6 forms before I head home to shower, change and head to work.  Like I've been saying: harder than I've ever trained for anything in my entire life and I gotta admit that I am really proud of myself.

The master I train with on Thursdays took a look at my self defense and knife dense techniques and said he thinks I'm in really good shape, which is reassuring.   I think my kicks are as good as they're gonna get so I'm not stressing about them, and my forms are definitely my strong suit so I'm actually pretty confident there. 

The big news celebration wise is that in last Friday's class I got through 2 of my 3 breaks successfully.  It was the first time I had tried either one of them on live boards and I missed both the first time.  This taught me the very important lesson that if you don't hit it right it HURTS, which therefore means that you'd better hit it right or you're going to be in pain (which is a bad thing to be in at the beginning of 20 hours of physical strain).  The second time I got both- and one is a three-part combination of an elbow strike, hammer fist and back kick in sequence- so I'm really psyched.

I have one more break to overcome tonight- my 360 degree spinning back kick.  (A.K.A. the one I've been struggling with since the beginning).  I will feel a thousand times better if I'm able to break this at least once before the test, so wish me luck!  And expect a post telling you all about what I'll doing next Friday...

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