Bonus Book Chapter: Black Belt Training Begins

Dear Reader: For the remainder of 2021, to continue celebrating the release of my first book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, I will be posting a monthly bonus chapter. While these stories didn’t make the final cut, they were still important moments in my life and in my black belt journey. Enjoy!

[Note: This would have occurred between chapters 28 “Black Belt Candidate” and 29 “Sucker Punched”]

“Up-downs,” Chief Instructor Alex said calmly, widening his blue eyes and smiling wickedly. It was the first Monday in April, the first class day after my bo dan test, and our Sabumnim must have decided he was going to whip us into shape, black belt style. We had two new bo dans (myself and a younger female student), a teenage bo dan who recently tested for black belt and would likely be awarded his new belt in a few days, and Eric, a teenage black belt who would be testing for second degree in the fall. You would think a class of only high-ranking students would be deadly-serious, mature, and determined. I had apparently forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager.

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What Can You Do In Just Ten Minutes?

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Although my dojang has officially opened, they’re still offering thirty minute virtual classes throughout the week. Saturday morning I did a virtual black belt class in my home. After some warm-ups and a few forms (although I had much less space, Keumgang felt better in bare feet than in those damn taekwondo shoes), my instructor said we were going to work on kicking. Okay cool.

Jump kicks.

Great, fine, I like jump kicks. I’ve done plenty of them.

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The Dojang Is Open!

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Like other states across the U.S., Texas is slowly re-opening in a phased approach. I work in healthcare, and after listening to the harsh experiences of my frontline caregiver colleagues, I’m in no hurry to go rushing back into all my great state has to offer because, despite some claims, this situation is still delicate and dangerous. As an introvert and a self-proclaimed misanthrope, I haven’t been missing much anyway.

That being said, I am very excited that my dojang is officially open!

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Fall Out of Your Comfort Zone (Literally)

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I want to fall in sparring class.

No, I mean really fall, crash to the ground with a spectacular splat that happens so fast I can do nothing but laugh.

I’ve fallen in sparring class before. I’ve been kicked to the ground by people a lot bigger than me, I’ve gotten my leg so tangled up on someone’s shoulder or chest gear that the easiest thing to do was to just tip backwards, and sometimes I’ve just mis-gauged my distance and fallen down.

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How Fighting Can Help Me Stop Being So Defensive

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As I reflect on what has been a pretty awesome 2019, I’ve realized that literally NOTHING I worried about for the past year has actually happened.

NOTHING.

Not my professional worries, not my personal worries, NONE of the small or more outlandish things my often-anxious mind devises to pass the time came to fruition. And I made myself miserable with all the worrying.

Now I feel kind of silly.

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Black Belts: Learn From Everyone

two men bowing

I’ve been wanting to spar with some of the senior team fighters over the past few weeks, but I’ve been too shy to ask. They’re half my age, a head taller than me, and very skilled in competition sparring. I felt like I’d slow them down if I asked them to practice with me. I do like the younger kids I usually practice with. Some of them are former students of mine, so I feel very comfortable with them (and now they’re all almost taller than me), but sometimes I really want to be pushed and challenged. I want to be forced to think and practice in a different way. I want to learn new things. Hopping around with tweens and teens isn’t always going to cut it.

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Don’t Be Frustrated. Be Fascinated.

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I am a second degree black belt, but I am not an advanced fighter.

Sparring has never been my forte as a child or as an adult taekwondo practitioner. Sometimes I’ve hated it. Sometimes I’ve looked forward to it. Sometimes I both dread and enjoy it. It has always been a learning experience. I don’t live up to my impossibly high expectations, and of course that sets me up for frustration.

I decided to change my approach to sparring at the dojang I’ve been attending since December of last year.

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When Being One Step Ahead Slows You Down

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As I’ve mentioned in a few blog posts, I’ve been working on the third Dan taekwondo form Pyongwon. It’s a short form, but it’s powerful and grabs your attention, plus it’s really fun to do.

Recently my Master told me I was rushing the snap kick/back kick combination a bit. I was moving so quickly that it looked more like a sparring combination than poomsae. This is the only kicking combination in the form and punctuates the beginning and end phrases, therefore it draws a lot of attention if done incorrectly.

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You’re Exactly Where You Need To Be (For Now Anyway)

you are here heart

I really, REALLY didn’t want to go to taekwondo on Tuesday.

I was two days into a busy week and just wanted to zone out at home, drink some wine, read a book, and not participate in life. That week I was both covering for a coworker at my day job who was on vacation and two taekwondo coaches who were also on vacation. I had taken two weeks off of work at the beginning of the month, so I was very willing to help out a coworker who’d had my back during that time, and the taekwondo coaches in question work very hard for the dojang and very much deserved a break…but damn if it isn’t tiring to be “on” for about 12 hours for an entire work week (including having to teach a workshop to 40 people on one of said days).

So forgive me if I wasn’t in the jolliest of moods when I showed up to the dojang Tuesday evening.

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