Learning how to kick above my head and scream like a banshee and memorize in Korean and break through wood that seemed as solid as concrete. Forgetting that I was afraid of hitting or getting hit or being looked at or looking silly or feeling foolish or falling down. Going from frightened to challenged to thrilled, over, and over again. It’s been a journey like that for the last four years, and Saturday was a pretty great step along the journey.
I got up at 4 a.m. (after having shot out of bed three times during the night convinced I’d missed my alarm). My father, who was nice enough to come despite the early hour, met me at 5 and we drove to the dojang.
The test started at 5:30 and… after that it all starts to run together. Let’s just say that there was an awful, awful lot of sweating. It combined all the techniques we’ve learned and all the information we’ve memorized and all the conditioning we’ve done, and it did it nonstop until our higher classmates, who had tested on the previous nights, came to run with us at the end of the test around 11.
Then we had a few hours to go home, shower, eat, change into fancier and non-dripping uniforms, and go to the banquet, where we’d do the final performances and breaks of the test. Because I was doing a few things, I had to stay behind-the-scenes for part of it, but it was awesome to see people perform and do just amazing things. And it was even better to get that black belt handed to me with a bow.
I wasn’t the fastest or the best, and I definitely made mistakes on things I’ve done perfectly before. But that’s okay. It just feels fantastic to have worked to get where so many people that I like and admire so much have gotten, and to have proved myself to them – but moreover, if this makes sense, to have proved myself to myself.
I can say with 100% honesty that I have never once walked out of the dojang without being glad I went. I’ve never wished I hadn’t gone. Not once. I don’t love everybody there or anything phony like that. But there are wonderful people, and we’re all pushing ourselves and challenging each other and it’s an awesome thing to be part of.
I was the kid who first went to school in fourth grade and didn’t know how to play any games at recess and was always self-conscious and out of shape and terrified-ly ignorant of anything having to do with exercise or even just moving. And now I’m a black belt. So if I tell you that typing that gave me a lump in my throat, I hope you won’t think I’m too mushy.