Archive | April, 2011

//06// How I Put the PAR-TAY in KA-RA-TAY: A Photo Essay

29 Apr

[randomness] A fond farewell to my Idol favorite Casey Abrams. Sad to see you go but I’ll see you on tour!

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Last week, I had a vision. I said, I’m going to make a karate scavenger hunt for my kids’ class. I think I actually said it out loud. Whoever heard me probably chalked it up to the crazy things that I say but I was serious.

The only question was… how?

I did the smart thing. I googled “how to create a karate scavenger hunt.” Of course, the search results were less than helpful. I googled “how to create a scavenger hunt.” There’s so much enthusiasm about scavenger hunts on the internet. Yes, people love them! But the instructions for how to DO it were murky at best. I clicked through a few pages and then gave it.

I knew it’d be up to me.

Now, this was a project. But one thing karate teaches you is that if you commit to a goal you can achieve it. I was committed to this.

We have a lot to cover in kids’ class. I only see the kids twice a week for 45 minutes and there’s always more to do. I’ve been the main instructor since November and by now I’ve got a really great core group of kids who have been coming regularly for at least three months. There are a few students who have been coming for years and then a couple of newbies. The challenge was making a scavenger hunt that could cater to all of them. This was a scavenger hunt. I had to think about what they would find.

I don’t want my karate games to just exist in a vacuum of fun with no basis in what we’re doing on the mats. The trick is to tie everything we learned previously into the game. It’s another way to apply karate skills. So I wanted to tie almost all of the blocks, strikes, kicks, combination, self defense, etiquette and basic kata moves that the white belts had learned so far into this scavenger hunt. It would be sort of like a final exam, but fun, without any finality or a grade. Well, it wasn’t a final exam at all but what I mean is that I wanted this scavenger hunt to be comprehensive. I wanted the kids to really think about–and discover–what it is that they learned in karate. I bet that they would know more than they thought.

So I sat down and I thought of 20 items for the scavenger hunt. It wasn’t a scavenger hunt so much in the fact that they had to find a bunch of things hidden in the dojo. Rather, it was more of a series of tasks that they had to figure out and complete. This was my list:

— Draw a picture of the Japanese flag
— Everyone does the 10 move hand combination with each other
— break a yellow and orange board
— Any Self Defense, kids choose their own
— Everyone does as many round kicks one one leg as they can on a target
— side/spin side kicks on a large target
— front kick in the air
— Bow to all the black belts who are around
— everyone does a kick/punch combination on the bob
— find one of the balls outside
— do the first 8 moves of white belt new age
— perform a break fall
— write down all the belt ranks in order
— find your instructor and take a picture with her
— Everyone performs blocks against a bat that the team leader strikes them with
— everyone has to jump 4 times over a blocker
— everyone reports one helpful thing they did that week (write it down)
— meditation for a minute
— draw all the belt stripes on a belt with the last one on the top
— sparring drill, partner up and they have to move towards and away from each other and do a strike or kick three times back and forth

Yes, there are a couple of vanity items on there. But I wanted to take a picture with the kids. And hey, people bowing to me never hurts anything.

On Tuesday, we prepared for the scavenger hunt by practicing kicks, self defense, 10 move hand combination (a series of 10 hand strikes you do in a specific order), and learning break falls. Of course, the kids didn’t know they were preparing for it. The game was a surprise.

So I looked over my list and then I had to figure out what to do with it. Was I just going to list everything individually or was I going to write some clues? I decided to make it interesting and write all the tasks as clues. Then at 2:30am on the night before my Thursday class I decided to make all of these clues rhyme.

So I wrote out a list of 20 clues for my scavenger hunt. The clues included gems such as:

It’s the kick where you strike not with your toes or your knee, but your heel. Use this kick three times on a large target so you can get a feel. Here’s a choice before you begin. If you want you can give this kick a spin!

A combination means kick, punch, one, two, three. Now make up a fighting combination to share with me. Once you’ve figured out how your team is going to block, strike and dodge, give this combination a try on the nearest bob.

Sometimes gravity takes us out of the air and even though this may not be fair maybe you won’t get hurt at all if you can demonstrate the proper way to fall.

And so on. 20 of them. It was late! Everything sounds more fun when it rhymes. If you want to read more, let me know. But that’s enough.

On Tuesday, I also promised the kids a party. So along with the scavenger hunt I decided to make a few treats to bring in the next day. Who said girls who take karate can’t cook?! (Actually, this one can’t… but she tried!)

Baking also gave me an excuse to try out my new camera.

I decided to make my fave treats: triple chocolate chunk and anything funfetti!

I decided to make my fave treats: triple chocolate chunk brownies and anything funfetti!

workspace
My workspace sure was organized!

mixing
I carefully mixed the three ingredients!

before
It looked pretty good before it baked.

after
But it looked even better after! (I don’t know why my mouth is so wide)

funfetti mix
The funfetti cookies were next. That mix is so white. There are sprinkles inside!

fun mix
More mixing…

cookies
The cookies came out the oven like magic!

treats
Yay! Now it was a real party with all sorts of junk food so that we could ruin whatever calories we burned in karate immediately after the class.

I arrived early at class to set up for the scavenger hunt. I had the list with me.

scavenger hunt list
(the sunglasses are just cool.)

I set up the different stations so that the kids could do the kicks on the target or whatever they needed to do.

blocker
We’ve got a big target for side kicks and a blocker for jumping over in these corners…

boards
… and plastic boards for breaking and a bat so the teachers can attack the kids! (Hopefully, they’ll block)

writing station
This is the writing station, where they drew a picture of the Japanese flags, colored in belt stripes, things like that. I got a real kick out of it when I heard one kid exclaim “We need to go to the writing station!” Or maybe I called it the drawing station. Something like that. We had markers!

dojo
Isn’t our dojo pretty?

Before class the kids were very curious about what was going on since I announced that we would be doing something special. They tried to weasel the information out of me but I stay tight-lipped. I was running around so I could finish up the set up. I forgot to hide the balls! But finally everything settled down and we lined up.

kids before class
The kids are listening to the weekly announcements. (We also have parents in the class, which is awesome.)

This whole scavenger hunt would not have been possible without my assistant teachers. I’m lucky enough to have three who come consistently every week and I’m always amazed they’d help me out like that. I don’t think I could function without them. Since I had three teachers I decided to divide the class up into three teams with each teacher leading a team. We had the Pink team, the Blue team and the Purple team. I let the kids pick their own teams. I was a little worried but the teams actually turned out almost perfectly. I don’t think I could have done a better job if I assigned everyone to teams myself. One important thing about karate is building personal relationships. Karate is a place where you meet people who you probably never would have talked to if you saw them on the street or had a class with them or something like that. I am pleased about the different friendships that are developing in class.

Then I described the rules of the scavenger hunt and shouted “GO!” (Not sure if this actually happened but it should have.)

I didn’t give the kids a lot of direction. I didn’t give the teachers a lot of direction. I just handed them the clues and said go for it. But I did give the teachers a page of answers to all the clues just in case they needed some clarification. I kept an eye on everyone in case they needed some help or if some of the kids needed to be reminded that they had to focus.The teams could complete the tasks in whatever order they wanted. The purple team headed outside to do the outdoor activities first while the other two teams stayed on the mats.

The Purple Team was our only kids only team. Comprised of some of the older kids in the class, I favored them to win, especially since they went outside to complete those tasks first. The kids took charge of the list and their teacher wandered after them, lackadaisically.

The Pink Team was a father/son, mother/daughter team with a strong leader. They seemed to take a strategic approach to the list, working their way through all the stations rather quickly. I was worried because we had about five minutes left and they hadn’t gone outside yet… dun dun dun.

The Blue Team had the youngest members of the class (along with our youngest teacher) but a couple of strong moms who really saved the team. I helped them out the most, just reminded the kids to focus and help their team out (and get off the exercise equipment!). My favorite part was when they were trying to figure out what order to put the belt stripes in. (There really was no correct answer.)

I watched the scavenger hunt unfold.

powwow

talking
There were a lot of discussions about what the clues meant.

falling
All of the group did their break falls…

more falling
… more falling …

fell
… we’ll have to work on those.

The kids broke boards…

break

breaking

broke

… but sometimes the mom just has to do it!

bam

The kids jumped over a blocker
jumping

jumpy

Let me tell you, that’s tough!

self defense

Gotta look intense with those self-defense moves. Grrrrrr!

10 move
There’s always time for instruction about how to do the 10 move hand combination.

time to block
Time to block the bat!

batty
Everyone lines up for a turn!

side kicks

more
Side kicks on a target was a crucial one to complete.

doop

oiir

There were lots of gatherings around the writing station!

So much going on. The clock tick-tocked away. Class was actually over time. I was about to tell everyone to stop when one little boy came running up to me. His team had completed everything.

THE PINK TEAM WON!!!!!!!!!!! Underdogs, but they prevailed. It was wonderful.

Then it was time for celebration!

party

girls

boys

everyone

We had a really nice party, just talking and eating and taking pictures afterward. The people from the next class joined us. Usually the energy level in the dojo is high after Kids’ Class but that day it was REALLY high. It seemed like everyone was a little hyper. Our next instructor had to bang the gong and calm us down before we started the next class (that I take). But it was fun!

Things that I learned:

1. I probably need to go over the scavenger hunt rules with the teachers more thoroughly next time.
2. Next time I will ramp it up so that it’s even MORE active with the things the kids have to do.
3. Writing rhyming clues is pretty fun!
4. Even with a new camera I’m a bad photographer. The sports mode on my new camera is LAME.
5. Wearing sunglasses hooked to the front of your gi makes no sense.
6. Next time I will keep a closer eye on all of the groups so I can better assess where they are at by watching them do something like a kata with little assistance.
7. Pizzazz is a funny word.
8. The parents in my class are super helpful.
9. Making something from a box still counts as cooking.
10. The next big activity/party will have to be even BETTER.

So all in all it was a great time. Karate is a serious sport but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun sometimes. As long as the games keep the kids engaged in their martial arts training I think that it’s a good idea. I’m going to keep racking my brain so I can push my class further. I love the unexpected creativity you can find in karate. It’s a wonderful outlet to figure out how you can create something new.

The most important thing that I learned is my assistant teachers are awesome. They always go with the flow and never question my crazy/unexplained ideas. We make a very good team. Check us out!

instructors

//05// Say Yes to the Dojo

27 Apr

[currently watching] The Season Premiere of the Voice! If it’s a reality TV show about singing… I’ve watched it.

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For me, Tuesdays are usually a good day. First of all, it’s not Monday. It’s one of my favorite days to recruit at work. It’s a good night for TV (although now that Idol has moved to Wednesdays it’s just not the same… but still a good night). And most of all, it’s the first day of the week that I teach my kids’ class at karate. I look forward to Tuesdays.

One thing that we have to teach the kids is that the dojo has certain rules. I’m not a very formal/serious person in everyday life. I’m pretty silly and easy-going. However, there is a certain amount of formality required at the dojo. It’s kind of nice having to act somewhat differently from how I would in other situations. Of course, the point is that your good manners in the dojo will become part of every day life and your identity as a martial artist.

When a black belt enters the dojo someone is supposed to yell “Chareyut!” (attention in Korean) and then everyone in the dojo bows toward the black belt. I’ve had my black belt for about 10 days now so I think people still say that with some special enthusiasm. It makes me feel bashful and amused at the same time. I’m not sure either of those are the right emotions. But the kids are very gung-ho about bowing. Whenever I ask them a question about things they should do when they enter the dojo they can tell me a hundred million reasons to bow. Bow at the door. Bow before coming on the mats. Bow when you leave the mats. Bow to the black belts. Bow to the instructors. Bow going out the door. Oh yeah, bow when you come in the door. Bow to Sensei. Bow when you’re coming on the mats even if you already came on the mats before. Bow if you think about coming off the mat. Bow if you see your instructor climbing a tree. I’m like, all right, enough with the bowing already. What else?!

I’m still happy that the kids can tell me about bowing because it is very important. It’s a sign of respect and the people you bow to have earned it. At my old dojo my sensei said that you should bow deeper if you’re the lower belt and keep your eyes on the floor. I keep that in mind. The kids know all about bowing but it’s one thing to know it and another thing to do it. We’re still working on that. Even I have to remind myself to bow bow bow especially on nights when all the black belts are in class. (It’s not like there’s 20… it’s more like 7. But still!)

Karate uses a special language and not just because we’re learning Japanese and Korean terminology. Yes is not the same in the dojo as it is at home. You don’t just say “yes” to mean that you agree. In the dojo you say “yes” to signify that you understand, you’re listening, you’re taking this all in and that all boils down to proving that you’re paying attention. You say “yes” to let the instructor know that you appreciate and respect the time and the effort they are putting into helping you become a stronger martial artist. It also keeps you engaged. I know I tend to get a little spacey in class. It’s not that I’m not thinking about the karate–I am– but sometimes I get caught up in my own thoughts about what I’m doing or watching for all my bad habits in the mirror. Having to say something—“Yes, sir!” or “Yes, Ma’am!”–reminds me about where I am and what I’m doing and what I should be watching. It helps keep me focused and it could work that way for everyone.

At my dojo we use “osu” which is a Japanese term. I had never heard of it before this dojo. Saying the word felt strange. I didn’t like to say it because it was so awkward to me. You say it like “OH-SSS” like a bark and then a snake hiss (because you usually say with some enthusiasm, usually loudly, at least that’s how I use it most of time). That sounds kind of crude. It’s a nicer word than that. But I felt funny using osu so I’d opt for the clunkier, longer “Yes, ma’am”, “Yes, sir”, “Yes, Sensei” and the like. Until one day the word just clicked with me. Osu! I just loved it. That’s literally how it happened. One day I was like, wow, I really like saying this word and I’m going to start using it forever. A switch flipped in my brain. Now I use it all the time. Now it really feels like I’m part of dojo when I yell Osu? at my kids and glare until they repeat it after me.

But where does osu come from? I did a quick google of “yes in japanese” and all the first results were “there is no word for yes in japanese.” Of course, that was strange to me because I thought osu meant yes. So I did a follow up search and I came up with this interesting essay.

There are plenty of times when you should not use “Osu!” toward other people. Those rules are pretty simple, but there are quite a few of them. To simplify things, �Osu� neither means “Yes� nor “I understand”, although sometimes it is used that way. �Hai� or �Onegaishimasu� deems more appropriate. You don’t use “Osu!” toward women, since women in Japan, being addressed by men, should be treated in a certain polite way. Not toward strangers also. “Osu!” is an in-group expression, so it is appropriate to use it toward your own group of friends, and inappropriate to use it toward those you have a more distant, polite relationship.

Okay, so that whole essay pretty much contradicted everything I thought I knew about the term. But it’s an interesting read. It said that osu could be a contraction for a couple of different expressions and that it is a masculine word and a word used during athletic activity. It said that the Japanese wouldn’t use the term with women or to answer a question. I said osu to my female sensei today answering a question. Huh.

I think this warrants more research. But I don’t have time for that tonight. In the end, the dojo rules matter the most. Like I said, there’s a different language in the dojo and it includes osu in the way our sensei has taught us to use it, a way that has most likely been handed down through generations. I like the history in the traditions of the dojo, I like being one of the people who is trusted to uphold those traditions and teach them to the next generation. I need to get tougher with my kids about bowing and saying “yes!” in the special dojo way. I want them to bring this knowledge that they need to respect and listen to people who want to teach them to every part of their lives.

Of course, it’s always awkward when you say osu! to the cashier when you go buy something after class. But maybe that’s just me….

//04// Finding the Water Element

26 Apr

[fun fact] Dancing with the Stars has the most annoying music in the history of reality TV dance shows. Currently hiding from it in my room.

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I have a confession to make. I don’t currently study KARATE. I do a style that’s a mix of Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Tai Chi.

But it’s my blog so I’ll call it karate for short.

Now I know about karate. I got my first black belt in Isshinryu Karate. I know about Tae Kwon Do. Kicking is my favorite!

It’s the Tai Chi part that gets me.

A couple of weeks ago Sensei had us do an exercise in class. I don’t remember what we were doing exactly but it was like some strike or block that we were doing slowly, deliberately and she said to visualize that we were underwater. I visualized, all right. I felt like I was drowning. 1) Because I imagined the water was over my head and I’m not a particularly good swimmer and 2) because I’m not very in touch with my chi.

Sensei calls it the water element. It’s all about flow and breathing and fluidity. This is kind of a foreign concept to me. I knew about chi before, of course. You gathered your chi before starting a kata. It’s part of the kiyai, part of the belt, that spirit inside of you. I knew about it on the surface but I had never focused on what it really meant before. I was all about harder, faster. How much power can I put into something? How can I be stronger? I was about speed and power through brute force. In order to keep up with the guys I wanted to be strong. Force and speed was always the most important thing to me. I think that’s why sparring as been more of a strength of mine than kata (my sister always beat me in every tournament) even though I really do like katas.

I’m missing the water element.

Fire and water, two conflicting elements that need to work in harmony. How do I maximize the water and maximize the fire? Or is there always going to be give and take?

(Wikipedia tried to give me a definition for “chi-square distribution” when I typed in chi. NO! Leave the statistics at home please.)

Chi came up in weapons class today. Sensei chose me to help demonstrate, which I thought was mind-boggling. She wanted us to practice using someone’s momentum against them. I watched her do it to me wide eyed as she kept my energy going forward and struck me in some vulnerable area. Of course, I’m familiar with parrying and moving off to the side of some attack, stopping them cold with a nice round kick straight in the solar plexus or something. But this was something different. It really was using their force, their energy against them, feeling it and then using it for your own advantage. Letting that strike come into you and then taking the control instead of stopping the strike and adding your own force into the mix. With this kind of defense it wasn’t so much about the strength of your block but the ability to focus and anticipate and feel–really feel–what was happening with the other person’s body and your own.

We practiced with out partners. I got the direction of the flow wrong a couple of times even though it’s so obvious, especially since we were striking with the speed of a three legged turtle. It just wasn’t wired in my brain. I wanted to stop and strike, stop and strike, power, strength, rawr rawr rawr. This was more about patience. Sometimes I don’t have enough patience.

Last week we used Tai Chi swords (wooden) and did something similar. We touched swords and then one partner had to follow the movement of the leader. The swords had to stay touching. It was difficult following each other but also kind of cool when Sensei was my partner because she knew what she was doing so that always makes it easier. She also showed us another way to use someone else’s chi against them. Is that even the right way to think about it? I’m still figuring this out.

I started learning my next kata for my black belt and Sensei said the tough part was finding the balance between the fire and the water element. So this–the water element, the chi, and me–is my next challenge.

//03// Why I Got a Pedicure Before My Black Belt Test

24 Apr

[Currently Listening to:] Degrassi! It’s the last episode of the season, omg!

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Last time I posted I was getting ready for my black belt test at my new dojo. It was about seven months in the making. I joined the dojo in August and worked hard at learning all the new katas. I actually love learning katas so this was a great time for me. I couldn’t believe there were two katas per belt. That’s a lot of katas… more than I’d ever learned before. It seemed overwhelming! But I chugged along, learning kata after kata after kata. I slowed down during November and December with the holidays. Then in January we were having a tournament so I spent most of the month trying to perfect the purple belt kata I decided to compete with (I was going to do blue but then I saw the 9 year old doing it better than me so I nixed that, lol). Finally in February I really committed myself to learning the brown belt katas. I finished learned them and announced it to my Sensei. She was like, great, so let’s get you to test!

I was like, uh-oh.

But this was what it was all leading up to, right? We picked a date about six weeks away. Sensei sent me an email with all the test requirements and I read it at work and had the closest thing to a panic attack I hopefully ever have. I had to walk away from my desk and hide in the bathroom. I thought I was going to cry. I was like, how am I ever going to do this? Why did I agree to do this in six weeks?! I wasn’t going to remember, wasn’t strong enough, didn’t want to. Karate wasn’t that serious! It’s just a hobby! Hadn’t I already proven myself? I went through a variety of emotions in a couple of hours and then finally I came around to acceptance and replied to the email to confirm the date.

Everyone was full of advice but of course they couldn’t tell me exactly how to prepare for my test. I knew it would be a test of endurance so I started running. I practiced my katas and self defense moves. I had to invent a kata and I needed to invent three self-defense moves that I had always slacked on. So I finally finished inventing my kata about two weeks before the test and then invented the self-defense moves around the same time (I just couldn’t think of anything that was really cool!).

I practiced my katas after running a long distance (for me) in parking lots and on the high school track, messing up the moves, not putting any power into it, mixing orange with my invented, green with blue, purple with brown, screwing up the white belt ones. I looked at the sky above me and I was like HOW AM I EVER GOING TO DO THIS?!

Two weeks before the test we started doing fitness tests in class and I hurt my right thigh, stretching it the wrong way or something. It was an ache that wouldn’t go away. I was having a hard time standing for my job the next day, rubbing IcyHot and Aspercreme on it and praying that it would go away. I mostly took that week off from karate and practicing but my anxiety continued to build.

I got back into class and I could still use my right leg even tho it felt funny so I was like, okay. I’m going to practice every day this week. Of course I didn’t. Finally, I got it together on Wednesday, speeding through my katas so I wouldn’t be late for American Idol. Thursday was really helpful because I practiced all the katas before I taught my class and during class that night. (And had this illuminating conversation: “Do you know the names of all the katas?” “Yeah!” “What’s the name of this one?” “Blah blah blah.” “Uh… that’s not it.” “I hate my life.”)

I was useless at work on Friday, the day before my test, but I made a decision.

I was going to get my nails painted red.

I remember watching a Behind-The-Scenes special about High School Musical on Disney Channel one night. Director Kenny Ortega explained the final scene of HSM1. This one!

He said that he thought red was a power color and that he wanted everyone wearing red and white and the walls painted red to give the scene really good, high, positive energy. Ever since then I’ve been convinced that red is a power color and since it’s the color of my dojo and my favorite color to wear I knew it would be the perfect way to power me through my black belt test.

So I got my pedicure and dutifully studied my terminology as the kind woman dealt with my feet (except for the part when she scrubbed the bottom of my feet with that loofa bar, which is horrible if you’re ticklish and the part where she cracked my toes, which is horrible if you’re me) and painted my toes and then we did the manicure and I messed up my nails trying to get my keys out of my purse. Even with my power color activated I still wasn’t completely relaxed. I knew I knew the self defense moves and the katas (and now the names of the katas!) and the terminology/knowledge items pretty well but something was holding me back.

The pushups.

I planned to practice them. I even bought a yoga mat! But… I never really got around to practicing those pushups except for the one time I did 47 in a row and then collapsed on the mat in anguish. I was really worried about those push-ups because I knew it wouldn’t be pretty.

Everyone told me that the black belt test was designed to break you down, to exhaust you and then make you push further, use your inner-strength. But what they didn’t say is that the test is also designed so that people see you struggling. I didn’t want anyone to see me struggling through my push-ups. I hate for anyone to see me when I’m less than my best. Whenever I’m having a bad moment it’s time for me to disappear. My worst fear was about to come true in less than 24 hours.

I woke up on the day of the test and laid in bed for a little while. My dad gave me a pep talk over the phone and my mom texted me and my aunt was excited and I just wanted to get it over with.

I couldn’t help lamenting about all my handicaps. I’d only been at the dojo for seven months. I hadn’t been practicing the katas for years and I hadn’t been hearing the terminology and saying the sayings, hadn’t been witness to a lot of the traditions and rituals. I hadn’t seen a black belt test before. But in a way this also worked to my advantage because I didn’t take anything for granted. I knew I had to work really hard in order to remember anything. I wasn’t scared off by watching any of the previous tests. Even though I had never tested at that particular dojo I had tested many times, working my way up through the ranks at two different dojos and had done a black belt test before. So despite my lack of specific experience I knew that I could do it.

The most repeated piece of advice I got was to always take the water break when Sensei offered them. I think people said that to me so much because I rarely get water when we have a water break in class. I like to stare at myself in the mirror instead (I enjoy the mirrors in the dojo). So that was on my mind when I started the test.

The first part of the test was the endurance. Jumping jacks and the sit-ups and the push-ups. I turned away from my classmates watching me and closed my eyes during the push-ups but unfortunately it didn’t make them disappear. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought because everyone was very supportive and cheering me on and I liked it more than I thought I would.

Every moment I got a break I would assess the situation. How much more did I have to do? Once I got through all the katas I was so relieved. Then I realized I still had kumite AND breaking. The test seemed never-ending. I couldn’t breathe. I have asthma and I’m terrible at managing it so I can’t breathe a lot. I’m used to it but I think it concerns other people. I was just thinking, once it’s over I can breathe again.

I remember doing a break with a flying side kick and I missed the first time. The holder was asking me if I wanted it higher or lower and I was just staring at him like I have no idea what is going on right now? How am I supposed to know? I really don’t know how I’m going to get from here to there and break that board. Eventually they stopped talking to me since I wasn’t giving any helpful replies and then I squeezed my hands in fists tightly and told myself to commit and I broke that board.

There’s a lot more to say but in the end it was a really good experience. It was about pushing yourself and triumph over your own fears and having other people be a witness to your good and bad moments and trust them to keep cheering for you. It was about the inner strength that the martial arts teaches you and also about the physical skill that you find somewhere deep inside. It was about connecting mind and body and soul for one purpose. It was also kind of fun! My favorite part of the test was when I meditated at the end and then one of the other black belts came to help me to my feet and the smile on his face was so sweet. Then it was over, hurray.

Still, I have a lot to learn and there’s a lot that I want to accomplish in this upcoming year. When I test for second degree it’ll be even better than the first time. I’ll probably get my nails painted again.