Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tae Kwon Do - The Black Belts

It was with great excitement that my boys and I entered Kim's Tae Kwon Do this evening. We recently graduated from the beginner class and tonight would be our first "real" class. I must admit that Monday night I chose to observe the first few minutes of the adult class and then leave overcome with intimidation without joining in.

My first mistake was asking another mom-type if it was much different than the beginner class. The look on her face and her resulting instruction for the free form sparing, "maintain eye contact at all times, never back up, and if THEY HIT YOU it is their fault not yours." Um, hit me? Really? I thought it was all non-contact. So, I snuck out and went home to chores and bills.

Tuesday - I was determined not to be intimidated (that is not in my regular nature anyway). Traffic was light, I swung by home to pick up the boys, suited up in my incredibly unflattering white uniform and arrived to watch my two youngest in their children's class. It was enjoyable and my kids performed well.

As the children's class was ending my oldest son and I exchanged nervous glances. The adult class followed the children's class. Finally he said, "I guess we're up." I said, "Yep, you nervous?" Him: "Oh yeah." Master Henkel the kind, no-nonsense instructor required us to line up in the class by rank - we get the back row- woo hoo!

After a ridiculously fast warm-up session which feels more like whiplash and softshoe, Master Henkel began shouting sounds which replaced the beginner class' commands: front kick, low block, etc. The rest of the class understood these words because evidently learning Korean is part of the training process (shoot, should have read that handbook we got the first night). My son and I couldn't help but laugh as the rest of the class blocked and kicked and pivoted on command "Shi bah dum di sah" (or whatever) and then we face the back. "Kah bum da bum di doy" (or whatever) and everyone is performing reverse kicks I have never seen before. Okie dokie...

We kept up but then Master Henkel assigned us to the top two black belts in the class for the rest of the night. Bless these two young people. They were patient and gracious, but I imagine that teaching a newbie, white belt wearing, green horn ranked right up there with fighting a sweaty sumo wrestler in the TKD scheme of things. My partner and I practiced kicks, her foot precisely tapping my hand (the target) every time with a powerful, rapid, fluid motion. Me flailing about, trying not to fall down while trying to make my body obey the commands I was hearing:
  1. Step forward on your right foot
  2. Turn your left foot backward and step down - is it supposed to do that?
  3. Pick up your right foot and kick out quickly while pulling your toes backward and extending the ball of your foot - does that require acupuncture?
  4. Take your bottom lip and pull it up over your face while shouting Kiya

OK so that last part is an exaggeration, but only slightly.

Next up was the part I dreaded and so did every black belt in the room who might be paired with me. Free form sparing...
The Black Belts are no joke - they punch and kick and jump and turn so quickly and it looks like fun, but nobody wants to be the one in the class that holds everything up, right?

They perform kicks and blocks and punches gracefully dancing around the room. I bob and weave and kick and throw in a few cheerleader jumps... I was a wild woman. As I danced near my son awaiting his turn he says, "Go mom!" God bless him, we felt each other's fear and pain. I accidentally kicked a blue belt dude in the chest. Another pair of sparing partners shoved me as I got too close to their group. I got schooled by a kid who cannot be more than 6.

BUT I DID IT. My son and I left proud, a little sore, VERY tired and closer for having endured the black belts. To their dismay, I will return to work out with them again. To learn from them regardless of their irritance at my interloping.

Thank you Master Henkel for your encouragement and patience!