Life has been busy of late. Let me begin by catching you up to speed on my life as it continues in Korea.
On October 18th I took my black belt test in Seoul. I had trained for over a year for this and was looking forward to it. Clearly anxiety and nervousness was abounding but I trusted in my training for whatever was coming. I must say it was quite the experience. We headed to Seoul in our team van with some other students who were also taking their test. To take the test we had to go to the Kukkiwon, the very center of the Taekwondo world. They dictate all of the rules, patterns, and various issues that govern the martial art for the entire world. That fact alone was unique in of itself. Just being in this place you could feel there was a sense of pride and honor in the sport for the Koreans and for me to be going into this place to be tested for black belt was a honor as well. I was the lone foreigner in the whole place. Loads of kids and only a few adults around my age. It was totally in Korean but luckily I had enough knowledge of the language and understanding of the commands that I could easily navigate through the night. The instructors who were doing the test were quite attentive to me as I was the only white guy in the place so they wanted to make sure I did well and had what I needed. We were tested on two different forms consisting of blocks, kicks, and punches. It reminds me of a kind of dance but with fighting moves. After this was easily accomplished we moved to the sparring part of it. This bit I was a bit nervous as to who I would spar against and what to expect. They paired me up with a young Korean probably 18 or 19 years old and about my size. The judge told me if I kicked him in the head I would fail so to stay away from that. Noted. We were only wearing head gear so it was rather light and easy. I only got a couple of kicks in before we were stopped and the test was over. The preparation itself took much longer than the actual test but I was glad to have completed it.
The perspective on black belts has changed for me quite a bit. I think in the west we believe most Korean, Japanese, and Chinese men have their black belts and thus some kind of toughness is attributed to this thought. In Korea all the young men when they turn 18 or 19 must enroll in the military and it is here the majority of them gain their black belt status. But within the military they only do very basic training. Think this is what you need for the test, learn it and here's your belt. I feel there is some misunderstanding on that level, most of what the west views as every Korean man having their black belt is only partly true. They have it and they have military combat training but within the sport itself they are on the lower end of knowledge of the art.
I know what you are thinking ... Master John, do you feel more dangerous now that you have your black belt? I guess I do. I've never had to use my training in a real-life situation and hope to never have to. If I did, I could handle myself well enough to subdue the other but I've also learned that not exactly what martial arts is about. It's more about controlling your body, your mind, and your emotions. It's more about being hard on the outside and soft on the inside is the balance most martial artists are going for. Truthfully ... would I love to use what I've learned one day ... maybe ... if there was some monster that needed to be destroyed in an epic battle of good and evil ... haha! But as this is real-life ... I guess that won't happen except in my head or in Mersinger's mind.
Since then work has been good. I've started bringing my guitar into class and doing a kind of music class with my students. It's fun and it makes teaching for me more enjoyable and also allows me to be more creative. We do songs like Twinkle little Star, Farmer in the Dell, Bingo, etc. The kids love it.
The picture above is from a night of swing dancing with my friends. I love the fact how this dance is enjoyed by all people in the world and it's fun watching the Korean enjoy themselves cutting it up on the dance floor.
that's all for now!