12/04/2006

The final countdown: TKD

There's a lot to report, as well as a lot of photos, so I think I'll do it in daily installments, and perhaps get the pix put onto Flickr or something, 'cus I don't know if Blogger can upload so many photos (also for those who have slower Internet connection, waiting for all the images to appear on a single screen is a pain - not everyone has the highspeed proliferation as found in South Korea!)

So, first there's yesterday. I went to bed early on Saturday night, and strangely, (for me at least, when I reflect on all the shaky TKD belt tests I had to take during the 1st Dan run up,) woke up really refreshed and without any nerves whatsoever. In fact the whole build up to the test was quite smooth. My main worries included whether I could remain free of sickness, since the onset of winter has meant that just about everyone around me was struck down by a debilitating flu-like virus - one of my students had even come to English class saying that she'd 'left her I.V. drip at home' (!!!) Another worry was whether the temperature would go down below zero degrees celsius, as last December had been soooo cold with a couple of daytime temperatures having been as low as minus twenty. I remember hanging around outside for about 4 hours awaiting my 1st Dan test in Daegu, so the prospect of having to do it in Seoul at an even colder time of the year was a real problem. How can you burst into Poomsae or sparring when your body is frozen into a block of ice?

Anyway, off we set to the Kukkiwon in a GPS navigated car. It was just me and the instructor, who - and this is where it gets really uncanny - happened to be a Kukkiwon judge, and was going to be judging that very day at my test!!! I couldn't have landed such better fortune, as he was able to tell me everything that was going to happen in the test, and even that they had selected in advance that Taegeuk 6 Jang was going to be called out along with Koryo Poomsae. That type of information should have been top secret! And then, get this, I was invited to join the judges and meet the chief Kukkiwon officials in the Kukkiwon arena, while other test takers were forced to wait on the surrounding balconies. I was also the only one allowed to warm up in the arena area, as well as having my own personal hot air (a la jet engine) heater aimed in my direction. Just as amazing was how I think it had been personally rigged by my instructor to have the adults test before the children to avoid the long wait - usually it is the other way around. How much easier could I have had it??!! It was unbelievable luck!!!!!

So, I was able to start testing pretty much straight away. There weren't actually many people there. At my 1st Dan test in Daegu, there had been over 100 test takers, but this time, there were perhaps 200-300 max. There were only 8 'adults' testing, 4 of those taking the 2nd Dan test, only 2 women, and only one foreigner. The test itself only takes about 5-7 minutes. I don't think people in other countries could believe how short such a major belt test is. Furthermore, you can see afterwards that it is impossible to fail. Personally, I don't think I quite deserve the 2nd Dan just yet. I'm quite sure I wouldn't get through a day long test, for example. I would need perhaps another 6 months of full-time training to be perhaps truly ready for what I consider to be 2nd Dan competence. Anyway, under the circumstances that I am leaving Korea after December, I'm quite sure I'm doing the best thing by taking advantage of the convenience of doing the test here. In other countries, the testing availability and requirement may not be so convenient for my schedule at the time.

I can't really remember whether I made any mistakes with the Poomsae. I just noticed the guy in front of me making a hash of it. I just kept my mind pretty focused and tried to execute the moves with as much technique as I could muster. It went as well as it could for my ability. Then, we had to do just 2 sets of kicks, one with each leg. But, I couldn't quite hear what the combination was, so I made a mistake somewhere. Nevermind, as I noticed the other test takers were pretty clueless, too! I had to do a turning kick, double jump kick (actually, I'm not sure what the English name for this kick is), and then perhaps it was a back kick, or it could have been a reverse kick, or even a call for us to just turn around after the doule jump kick. I really didn't hear the last instruction at all. I just did the turning kick and then the double jump and figured if there was something wrong, I'd simply be asked to do it again. But, no call came to do it again.

Next, I had to do sparring. The sparring at the 1st Dan test had lasted all of 30 seconds, with me doing a back kick into my opponent's stomach and knocking her down. This time, we had to wear all the padding. Embarrassment number 1 was that one of the officials had somehow mistaken me for a MAN (!!!) and had pointed for me to put on the bollocks protector!!! I nearly did it, but thank god I didn't. That would have been really embarrassing. Anyway, I'm all padded up, when I find out my opponent is a woman who looks more like a man than I do. She was taller than me, older than me (I wonder if she was in the special forces, 'cus an older woman taking the 2nd Dan test in Korea is highly unusual), and her limbs were about twice as thick as mine. Oh no, bad sign. A further embarrassment came when the referee in the sparring ring, pulled me around some 270 degrees, so I was facing not the judges, but the row of parents in the audience. As I was just following the referee and had no glasses on at that point, I just bowed to the parents!!! (There is a photo of me doing this, but I'll spare my dignity by not showing it). I did finally bow to my opponent, though. And, then, woosh, the biaatch kicked me straight in the mouth! I heard the whack against my jaw and teeth. I had no idea whether anything was broken, but was kind of stunned that she would try this in a test which was not for point scoring. (I saw it happen to a couple of other test takers, too). Kudos to me, though, 'cus I just kept going, even though I had some tears coming to my eyes...aahhh...

Sparring lasted less than a minute, and then, it was all over. I took off the protectors and left the arena. I had a little blood inside my lip, but really not much. Not much waiting around, and not even frozen to death.

Another test and another belt to my name!

As the instructor/judge has been so good to me throughout the test preparation, I will upgrade the gym to a 5 star gym on that basis on my Tagzania map (see side bar). He even took pictures of me at the test on his camera, even while he was supposed to be judging, and he sent them straight through to me via email. Up until this instructor, just about all other instructors had not done anything 'extra' and had never taken any time out to explain all the nuances and discrepancies between all the Taekwondo movement variations that occur from gym to gym (I will aim for this information to be explained in detail in a later post), so I'm really impressed at his service.

Finally, as probably it's all anyone is interested to see, are the photos. (ABOVE) As I said, I will put them up in installments. First is the Chung Woo gym pre 2nd Dan test prep, and then some of the images taken from the actual testing at the Kukkiwon. You will notice another foreigner at Chung Woo. He is a professional chef from France. He seems like a really decent guy, but it's funny how he takes sparring soooo seriously. He even pushed one of his 6ft tall opponents into a glass display cabinet while we were practicing in the gym! He is built really solidly, just like Baekdu San itself!! I just hope my Kukkiwon sparring biaatch will be avenged by him someday!! Allez! Allez!

1 comment:

Amanda said...

I like how you go from saying the testing weak to approving of your master ignoring his duties to send you photos. ^^ Too funny.

Congrats, good job, hopefully you won't have problems adding the second dan rank mark to your belt, since (if I recall correctly) you had problems collecting il dan belt?