This weekend I competed and mid-termed for my 5th degree at the 2015 ATA Fall Nationals in Orlando, FL. Whew! What a whirlwind adventure of energy and emotion!
In this blog post, I share my perspective and personal growth to my students by offering a glimpse of what the ATA looks like outside our club at the Pershing Rec Center in Minneapolis. In this post I will share my personal experience of mid-terming as 4th degree black belt and competing in one of the most competitive arenas in the ATA. The top 5% of active, competitive ATA martial artists from all over the world attended. Many of my competitors in my ring flew in from South America!
I met Mickey. I met new friends. I grew stronger.
I also was nervous preparing, with lots of anxiety leading up to the big events. I sweated buckets. I was forced to learn. I left exhausted (uninjured, thankfully). And no stage-fright (perhaps I beat my own performance anxiety from writing this blog post on the topic.).
Since my instructor, Master Hauptman, lives in Colorado, I rarely get the chance to train with him. I’ve had to seek out assistance within ATA Region 114 community with the likes of Sr. Master Gleisner and Mr. Jharen Haynes (phenomenal technicians and instructors, too) to learn my form. I am appreciative and thankful for their help!
Many challenges I overcame. Namely, Four days away from family doesn’t come easily, as we have another on the way (yikes… proof God has a sense of humor!). I tell myself: use this time wisely and catch up on sleep!
Secondly, this represent as larger departure outside my comfort zone. My focus: life skills teaching, community-building, and quality classroom teaching remains paramount in my business objectives. World-class competition doesn’t rank in my current priorities.
The play-by-play rundown:
Mid-term to 5th:
This was my first midterm towards my 5th degree black belt. The most stressful part: anticipation, knowing an entire panel of at least a dozen masters sat at a table right in front of me, judging me.
My goal was to simply get through my form and nail the positive mental attitude, memorization, focus, and power components. I’m far from the automatic reflex component (done in my sleep), as that takes more than just a few months of practice. Three more years to arrive to that point.
I felt strong, focused, during my midterm. Sparring seemed like the normal showing off techniques like butterfly kick, jump reverse outer crescent kick, repeat kicks, etc… two 1-minute rounds. Whew! Then 4-board breaks, which 3 were broken on the first attempt. My front kick / repeat side kick was my downfall, as several board holders lost grip of the board. I broke all my boards. I should choose stronger board holders in the future. Lesson learned.
Then came the duezy: the ATA Fitness test.
This is a new requirement since Worlds in 2015. Five minutes to demonstrate 30 pushups, 50 sit-ups, 10 sets of 6 kick combinations (60 impacts), 10 sets of hand / kick combinations (60 impacts), 10 sets of warrior punching drills (100 impacts). I went hard, in top 10% to complete the test first while desmonstrating strong contact each impact. Heart rate, zone 4, 96-99% max.
Over 200 martial arts in the room completed the first test. We were ready to bow out, then Grandmaster took the mic.
Grandmaster was not happy. He was disappointed in the Masters performance of the fitness test. He asked EVERYONE TO DO THE ATA FITNESS TEST a 2nd time!
So we did it in the Spirit of Songahm Taekwondo!
It wasn't fun. I tried to make it fun (in my mind) while having a good attitude. I am confident I passed my fit test!
Traditional Forms Competition:
This was the first time I’ve competed with my fourth degree form in a tournament. I beat a few guys, felt confident. Didn't place, but I've got years ahead of me for that (about 9 more years in this form division). I remember years ago when I was a first-degree black belt watching the 4th & 5th degree ring in awe, inspired to see my former instructor, Master Horn, Master Bass, compete with the likes of Master Chris Martin. To have Master Martin judge my form, yikes! Of course it was a bit intimidating. After all, he was the guy that is famous for his sparring knockout!
Master Martin and I after competition:
The Rundown: Tied 2-2. I scored two punches, he scored two sidekicks. A jump kick to my head in the last few seconds, match over. He went on to take first. The second place guy didn’t score any points against him. Of course, I felt like a sports team loosing playoffs by a slim margin, then watching the finals get swept in a big loss.
Here is what the final sparring match looked like. I lost to Mr. Meza who went on to win first:
In sum, I returned pleasantly rewarded. I will have to wait a few weeks for mid-term results, but I came away knowing where I stand in my fitness and martial arts training. I'm more confident knowing my strengths, but motivated to work on my weaknesses as well. I've got years ahead of me to continually improving, as I taking the long-term approach with a goal to win a title in the 40-49 age group in a few short years!