On Sunday, I passed my belt test in Tae Kwon Do and will now be wearing an orange belt. I recently learned that different Tae Kwon Do schools use different belt colors and that, when asked, I'm supposed to give my Gup or number ranking. So, I'm now an 8th Gup (white belt is 10th and black belt comes after 1st Gup). Not only did I pass the test but I broke the board! Again! For those of you who weren't around when I took my yellow belt test, every tester has an opportunity to break a board with the "breaking kick" for their rank. At the lower ranks, you don't have to successfully break the board in order to advance but at the higher ranks, you don't get your next belt until you break the board (it's actually two or three boards at the higher ranks). When you test to get your black belt, you have to break a block of concrete with your hand. How cool is that? By the time I get there, I'll probably be in my late 40's or early 50's and I am SO going to bust that concrete in half and represent for the older crowd!
Speaking of representing for the older crowd - because of a scheduling conflict, I had to test on Sunday with the kids instead of testing on Saturday with the adults. So there's me and 14 kids under the age of 10 (most of them 5 to 7 years old). And there are all their parents sitting to the side watching. I only felt a teensy bit awkward. And big. I'm not all that tall but I think I know now how super tall people feel looking down at the top of all those heads.
Moving right along - I tested with the three boys who were higher ranking than I am. They each had an opportunity to break their boards before I did and none of them were able to do it. Then it was my turn. Everyone was watching and I really, really wanted to break that board. I would have felt like a fraud if I didn't - even though that's silly. I didn't break on my first try. The teacher said "You're a little too close." I moved about an inch farther away and BAM, the board cracked in two. It's funny, when you hit it wrong and it doesn't break, it feels like you're kicking the wall. But when you hit it right, it feels like you just put your foot through paper.
Just like the last test, my five-year old was there, too. She wasn't officially testing but the instructor let her go through the test with the other kids. She's been struggling a bit because she takes the mixed-age class with me and most of the other kids in the class are far more advanced than she is. The teacher thought (rightly so) that it might motivate her to see more kids her age and rank. As soon as I broke the board, I looked at her and she was beaming. Just like last time. She didn't break the board the first time she tested and she was really disappointed. But this time she did it and the look of pride on her face was priceless. She was hoping he'd give her a new belt even though it wasn't an official test but he said no. So now she's been practicing her other techniques every day because she wants to move up so badly.
Like last time, I thought I'd drop in my essay. In order to advance, you have to write an essay on a topic from a list the instructor provides. For kids who can't really write yet, they have to dictate to their parents. It's not exactly great prose but here it is:
Define respect and how to develop it through Tae Kwon Do.
To respect someone means to hold them in high regard and treat them with deference. You develop respect through Tae Kwon Do by following the manners and treating higher ranking students and instructors with the deference they deserve. At least that’s what I thought when I selected this essay question. But then I looked up the definition of “respect” and realized that although I was partially right, there is much more to that word than I thought.
According to the dictionary, respect has the following definitions:
1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.
2. To avoid violation of or interference with: respect the speed limit.
3. To relate or refer to; concern
As a noun, it also means:
1. A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem.
2. The state of being regarded with honor or esteem.
3. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation.
Tae Kwon Do assists in the development of respect in many ways. The manners of Tae Kwon Do require respect for instructors and higher ranking students. In showing respect for others and respect for the etiquette of the dojang, we also develop respect for ourselves. As we learn new and more difficult techniques, we begin to appreciate the strength of our bodies. Self-respect improves as we achieve higher levels of mastery. We will be regarded with honor by others for our achievements and, more importantly, for our willingness to treat those around us with respect. Finally, Tae Kwon Do teaches us that if we are willing to show consideration for others, we will receive consideration and respect in return.