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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Do You Speak Korean in Your Dojang?

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“Come on, guys, let’s count in Korean,” I said with mock exasperation. A few nights ago my instructor had given me and my fellow classmates (teenage black belts) a series of exercises to do for our warm-up: jumping jacks, squats, mountain climbers, and push-ups. We were instructed to count out loud so we could stay together. I gritted my teeth though counting the first set of jumping jacks in English–it made me feel like a white belt–and spoke up as soon as I had the chance.

Saying, “Hana, dool, set…” never felt so sweet.*

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Being a Good Black Belt Is Being a Good Mechanic

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If getting a first degree black belt is like passing a driving test, then being a second degree feels like learning to do your own oil changes and minor repairs. When you’re not “driving” you’re cleaning, prepping, trouble-shooting both with and without help, and making sure your “vehicle” is well-maintained and in good working order. You’re looking for long-term sustainability and reliability.
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When a Hiatus Leads to Victory (i.e., the Best Jump Back Kicks Ever)

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Okay, I didn’t do THIS, but it felt like it.

Last night in taekwondo class I did the best jump back kicks I’ve ever done in my taekwondo career. Ever. (I’m a second degree black belt, it’s about time, right?) It’s not like I haven’t been doing jump back kicks lately, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re hitting targets versus just kicking the air. Hitting targets, whether they’re pads, kicking pads, or people, is extremely important in taekwondo or any striking art. You can hit the air all you want and get fairly well conditioned, but it’s quite a different thing when there is weight and resistance at play, as well as the precision required with hitting a target, whether it’s moving or not. This is not only important for sparring and breaking, but it builds power and speed as well.
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A Black Belt Takes a LesMills Body Combat Class

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Good lock of the kick, but y’all need to turn your hips and point your toes down…then again, what do I know. I’m just a black belt.

Two years ago I wrote a review of the ballet barre class my gym introduced in early 2016. I’ve since gotten the hang of it, have become pretty proficient in the moves, and have seen some improvement in my core and leg strength. I usually did a little barre and swimming on the side while I took 5-6 taekwondo classes per week.

Now that my taekwondo training has dwindled to next to nothing, I need something else to keep me in fighting shape. About 2-3 months ago I started taking Body Combat at my gym. Body Combat is one of the latest parts of the Les Mills gym class machine, which now includes 16 different branded classes that are taught at gyms across the world. There are certain “versions” that are released every few months, which keeps both the certified instructors and participants on their toes.
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Focus on Your Foundation: What I Learned From a Kindergartner

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“What are you going to do when you get out there?” I asked my first and youngest sparring competitor of the day.

My fellow coaches and I had taken eleven of our students to a local tournament and had settled in for a very long day. This student, a five-year-old yellow belt, was competing for the very first time. He was suited up and ready to begin his match.*

“Defend myself,” he answered in a very calm, confident voice as he gazed at the ring where the referee and judges stood.
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The Case For Getting Your Ass Kicked

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“I think I went a little too hard,” a young red belt whispered grimly to me after a sparring match at a recent tournament. He and a young red belt girl also from our school were doing an exhibition match. Typically students from the same school don’t compete against each other, but because at the time the coordinators couldn’t find competitors in their age, rank, and weight class, these two agreed to have a friendly fight (or…well…we coaches and their parents agreed for them).

This little guy is a natural. He’s fierce, scrappy, and I’m so jealous of his jump spin kick. He was trying to hold back and be more controlled since he knew his opponent (and his classmate) was smaller and less quick in the sparring ring, but sometimes he couldn’t help going full force.

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Dealing With Uncertainty Like a Black Belt

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A few weeks ago in taekwondo class we were practicing a kicking drill: one person held a square pad in each hand and walked backwards while another person moved forward, kicking the pad with each step. The twist was the holder changed the target’s position every time, so the person kicking had to quickly respond with the appropriate kick: snap kick, roundhouse kick, side kick or turning back side kick, and spin kick. The purpose of the drill was to practice reacting quickly to an uncertain situation. If the target is open we should take advantage of the situation and respond with the most appropriate kick, which may not have been the one we were expecting to use.
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Do Something Already! What to Do When You’re in Analysis Paralysis

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Wait! I need to think about this!! Can I make a pros and cons list? Does anyone have a flip chart??

If the opponents in a taekwondo tournament sparring match don’t engage with the first 5 seconds, the referee commands them to “Fight!” After 10 seconds of inactivity one or both of the competitors could receive a penalty.

There could be many reasons for the competitors’ inactivity: fear, lack of experience, or nerves.  Other times, though, the competitor may simply be trying to make an informed decision. They may have the feeling they need more time to properly size up their opponent and make a decision about how to attack. They may be running through their mental Rolodex of moves before striking the first blow. While being mindful and strategic can benefit fighters, becoming too entrenched in wondering what to do next and analyzing every choice can stop them in their tracks.
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Why Do I Still Dread Sparring Class?

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This post features both empanadas and taekwondo sparring. What could possibly go wrong?

I like Wednesdays. If it’s a payday week I can log online as early as Wednesday to look at that Friday’s paycheck so I have something to look forward to over the next two days. Wednesday is a good day to stay busy and productive without the drudgery of Monday or the frantic rush of Friday. Most importantly, Wednesday is empanada day at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.

Wednesday is also the day my dojang holds sparring class, and for some reason, I can’t shake the feeling of dread I’ve had around this particular class ever since I began training.
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