My practice of Tang Soo Do did not begin with Ms. Ohlson at Kick Start. Half way through my senior year I joined Master Ah Po’s school of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan (originally founded by Master Hwang Kee). I was fortunate enough to test for my 9th Gup before I left for college.
In Master Ah Po’s school there were many more students testing for their higher Gups. So by the time we beginners had completed our highest forms, we were invited to sit quietly and attentively against the windows watching the 6th, 4th and 2nd Gups finish their tasks. In fact I remember the test being less strenuous than the actual classes during the week. Since this was my only experience testing for a belt, I didn’t have much to compare to my experience at last Saturday’s test.
I guess this one experience never let the fact that Ms. Ohlson told us to keep 12:00pm to (hopefully) 4:00pm register. So even though I would be doing Karate for four hours, I never thought that it would be an active four hours until I sat on the floor watching the younger students doing their basic techniques (good job by the way!). Toward the end of that part of the test, Ms. Ohlson asked for only the Orange and Green Belt students to perform the techniques; however, instead of telling the rest of the students to Shio (rest) she asked them to hold a Kee Ma Ja Seh (which is a stance somewhat like a squat) with their arms straightened above their heads. I don’t know if many of you have ever held this position, but it is definitely a stance that makes you want to scream at the clock to hurry the heck up! As I watched my fellow students, it dawned on me that this was not going to be four hours of performing certain techniques and then waiting for the senior Gups to complete their highest techniques. This was going to be four hours of intense Tang Soo Do. This morning was bad enough since I couldn’t find my manual to review some of the Korean names (do yourself a favor and don’t leave it in the Dojang the Thursday before a test). While I’m sitting on the floor, trying desperately to remember the names and running through what the symbols mean on the Korean flag, I’m trying not to think about how much physical work this test is going to require. But that sinking feeling just won’t leave. I keep telling myself that it is just like class (you know four of them, one right after the other). An hour after the first group was supposed to be finished, we take the floor. Since, none of us wanted to be there till after 4:00, Ms. Ohlson decided to cram those four hours into three. I’m still not sure if this was an act of mercy or it just meant we would be moving harder and faster. After starring at the written test for a few painstaking minutes cursing my memory for leaving me, we all lined up at the back for basic techniques and combinations.
Ms. Ohlson proceeded to tell me that in a test your fo- cus and energy must be there all the time. This is what I planned to do. When I wasn’t performing a technique I’d be in Choon Bee, eyes forward, ready to do any technique she asked. When I would attack in One-Steps, my Sang Dan Kong Kyuck (high punch) would be executed as if that was the technique that would determine if I earned my next Gup. I was going to be on point the entire three hours. And when it came to sparring, I was going to go all out.
And boy did I want to, but once we got to kicks in ba- sics and we had to stand ready in a Hu Kul Ja Seh, I had to actively tell my legs to keep bent. I was so tired I wanted nothing more than to straighten my back leg and let my hands drop to my sides. And to top it all off, we had not even started forms yet, let alone spar- ring.
By the time each section finished I couldn’t help but hope that the boards were next. And every time Ms. Ohlson would announce a new section, forms! One- Steps! I’d think to myself, haven’t we done that al- ready? My answer: Apparently not.
When we finally reached sparring, I was convinced I’d rather take a punch than throw one. And much to my dismay, Ms. Ohlson turned to Mrs. Montgomery and me and said, “I don’t want to see any dancing, really spar!” Mrs. Montgomery took it up a notch and the only thing I could do was find the energy to meet her. When Mr. Montgomery was asked to fight two on one, I being one of the two, I dutifully got in there and attacked. Miraculously finding the strength to lift my feet and swing my hands, all the time hoping that I would not be asked to switch places with him.
Mercy was granted. Unfortunately, not for Mr. Montgomery’s fingers. Board Breaking was next. We all dutifully, and I am sure thankfully, sat down on the Dojang floor. My first board I broke, six years ago, was with a front kick and it only took me one time. So as I walked up to Ms. Ohlson and Mr. Montgomery, I was actually looking forward to Kyuck Pa (breaking). However, when Ms. Olsen told me to break it with a Yup Cha Ki (side kick), my heart sunk a little (and af- ter the first attempt I’m sure Mr. Montgomery’s did too). With each attempt I tried like it was the first time. Kick through the board...the board isn’t even there...you can do this! I’d tell myself. Well, after three tries and a Tollyo Cha Ki, Ms. Ohlson wisely decided a Moo Roope (knee) Kyuck Pa would be best and Viola! Success with no broken fingers.
By the end, I can honestly say I am proud of my performance. Was I perfect at every task like I intended to be? Not at all. Did I blow every task asked of me? No. I can say two things for sure about Saturday’s test: I put in as much effort as I could muster, and when I found myself slipping I’d do everything I could to pull myself back, and that even though those three hours were painful, long, and sweaty, they were totally worth it.
Written by Kimberly Moss