A month ago, I tested for my 4th Degree Black Belt at the 2014 American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Spring Nationals Rank Testing in Anaheim, CA.
As part of my testing, I had to complete the ATA Fit Test, demonstrate my 3rd degree form, spar two rounds, and break a series for boards. All in front of a panel of a dozen judges. I started the day very nervous (read more ON THIS BLOG POST), but enjoyed a challenging "warm-up" with my new friend Hernan Von Schmeling from Florida. One of the joys of attending these tournaments is meeting new people, which fosters camaraderie and motivation. I did enjoy meeting and testing with Hernan (who also passed). After the Fit Test, I performed my form, goofing up a small segment but quickly corrected it and I am not sure the judges saw (to think I've been practicing this form for years and STILL make nervous mistakes proves I am only human). I was pleased with sparring component of the test, starting off with a paired butterfly kick with Hernan and some fancy kicks and quick sequences. The judges are looking for practical moves of attacking, blocking, and counter attacking... so I tried my best to show them just that. I was most prepared for my board breaks, as I felt confident in my strength thanks to my gym training. However, I didn't break my boards on the first try since I wore sparring gear on my hands and feet (mistake). I removed them and blasted through them easily. Phew. Then I returned home. And waited.
26 days later, I found out my results: I PASSED! Yipee!!
Here is my new belt with my name embroidered in Korean:
Finally, I've completed a goal of mine for many years! I started my martial arts journey with the American Taekwondo Association in 1991, earning my black belt in 2002. I tested for my second degree about a year later, then earned my third degree in 2006. I took a sabbatical from ATA and returned full-force last May when I re-certified, competed at the World Championships (2nd in sparring), then began Lakes Martial Arts as an ATA club in September 2013. It's been a remarkable journey, and secretly each of these little steps since last May have been in preparation for my 4th degree test.
Out with the old (3rd degree) and in with the new (4th degree), note the additional roman numeral.
I set a high bar for myself, striving to do my very best in what I set my mind. Goals play a big part of the effort. So does perseverance in hard work. And a big smile and great black belt attitude when the going gets tough.
On of the perks of being an ATA Club owner is I can order my own belt, and have the name of my club, "Lakes Martial Arts," embroidered in Korean (LEFT). An additional perk of earning my fourth degree is I can wear a black satin stripe down on my uniform pant legs (RIGHT).
They say adding the black strip adds 5 mph to the speed of my kicks. Bonus!
Looking ahead, things will DEFINITELY be getting more difficult in testing for my fifth degree. Good thing that is 4 years away. However, I am excited to learn a new form, a new weapons form, and being competing in arguably the most physical of the divisions, the Men's 30-39 4th & 5th Degree Black Belt Division. I'll be in this division until I turn 40, a few years away. I might as well get used to the challenge and enjoy it!