An ever-changing life inspired by the pneuma


10k Run and Black Belt Test Recap – July 8 and 9, 2006


Saturday, Nathan and I arrived at the do jang at 7 a.m., and then headed out to Central Tech track. (Many, many thanks to Nathan for getting up so early to accompany me and then watching my whole test! It’s always great to have someone you love be there to support you.) Some people started earlier around 6:30 a.m. I started my run at about 7:15 a.m. In order to make the run seem less overwhelming, trainers recommend that the run be broken down into manageable sections. The track at Central Tech is a standard competition track, which means one lap is 400m. To do a 10k run, you have to complete 25 laps. Below is a breakdown of my run with times for each section.

  1. laps 1 through 4 (4 laps: 1.6 km=1 mile) – 10 minutes 10 seconds
  2. laps 5 through 10 (6 laps: 2.4 km=1.5 miles) – 15 minutes 49 seconds
  3. laps 11 through 14 (4 laps: 1.6 km=1 mile) – 11 minutes 24 seconds
  4. laps 15 through 18 (4 laps: 1.6 km=1 mile) – 12 minutes 19 seconds (includes some walking time here – at most 1 lap, walked half of lap 15, then ran second half of lap 15, ran most of lap 16 through 18)
  5. lap 19 (1 lap: 400 m=quarter mile) – 4 minutes 12 seconds (walked most of lap 19)
  6. laps 20 through 23 (4 laps: 1.6 km=1 mile) – 11 minutes 58 seconds
  7. laps 24 and 25 (2 laps: 800m=half mile) – 5 minutes 16 seconds

My total time for the 10k was 1 hour 11 minutes 7 seconds. This averages out to 7 minutes 7 seconds per km or 11 minutes 23 seconds per mile. This is comparable to my 5.7 km run of 35 minutes. That run averaged out to 6 minutes 8 seconds per km. My fastest time for a mile is 7 minutes 57 seconds, basically an 8 minute mile.

After the run, we headed back to the do jang and did 1000 skips or jumping jacks. Now, if you’ve never run a 10k before, trying to do jumping or skipping afterwards is a big challenge. It’s not like we had plenty of time to rest in between. We were given time to change into our taekwondo uniforms, then we had to do the 1000 skips/jumps. I ended up doing 800 skips using a skipping rope and 200 jumping jacks. The skipping was actually harder because as Nathan pointed out, I don’t just jump when skipping – I bounce between the skips. It’s pretty much a hop-jump.

Then finally, after the 1000 skips/jumps, we had a break in order to stretch out. I tried to stretch out, but my muscles were so tight that stretching them out was a little hard. I had to let them just relax first and then try to stretch. My calves had the worst of it I think. They cramped up a few times during the test, but mostly because we had to sit down sometimes while watching other people test. My solution was to rub and pat my calves and leg muscles for a bit to warm them up again. I was lucky I didn’t cramp up too bad before I had to stand back up and do some more patterns.

The next part of our test was a written test, which was actually very short. It took me about fifteen minutes to finish. Surprisingly, we didn’t get tested on terminology and only on a little bit of the history. I can’t believe I studied so much! Now, I can say “kam sa ham nida” for your support, dear readers!

After the written test, we had a five minute break. Then we lined up for the curriculum part of our test. We did our poomse (patterns) first. Every single one of them up to our belt level. For me, this was all eight Taeguks (colour belt patterns) and Koryo poomse (the first dan pattern named for Korea’s second dynasty). We first did the patterns as a whole class, then we were broken up into groups and had to do three random patterns selected by the Master. Lastly, we got to do whichever pattern we preferred. I chose Taeguk chil jang (Taeguk #7). Funny enough, many of the black belts decided to do chil jang. It seems to be a favourite amongst taekwondoists.

The next part of the curriculum is one-step sparring. One-step sparring is designed to help the martial artist develop control over their techniques. It is done in pairs with one person pretending to attack the other. The person defending has to execute their one-step techniques without actually hurting the attacker, that is, the defender can lightly tap the other person or kick about an inch away from the other person’s face. Since I was testing for second dan, I had fifteen different one-steps to do, and we had to do the techniques on both left and right side. That’s a total of thirty sets to go through per person. Afterward, we had to demonstrate the one-step techniques we created. Those testing for their first dan had to make up three one-step techniques, and those testing for second dan and up had to make up five one-step techniques. We had to demonstrate this one person at a time, and this took up a considerable part of the test. I thought my one-steps were okay. I liked some of them better than the others I made up. LOL… I got a small hamstring cramp at the end of executing my first made-up one-step technique. I ended up hopping a bit trying to shake it out, while everyone was watching. *blush, blush* It went away after I shook my leg out a bit. It was mostly from having to sit down and then having to get up and do a hook kick followed by a roundhouse kick – both kicks require the hamstring to execute properly.

After everyone demonstrated their one-step techniques, we did our kicking techniques. (I was being very careful now to not snap my kicks too fast so I wouldn’t get another cramp.) We had ten techniques to do, and each technique is done twice. For those taekwondoists interested, these were really simple. Our kicking techniques starting from white belt are:

middle front snap kick
high front snap kick
axe kick
middle roundhouse kick (roundhouse is referred to by some as “turning kick”)
high roundhouse kick
side kick
slide-step side kick
back kick (also known by some people as “turning side kick”)
spinning hook kick
tornado roundhouse kick (also known as “360 roundhouse”)

Next, we had to spar. After getting our equipment on, which includes shin guards, forearm guards, chest protector, and head gear, the Master selected pairs of people to spar. Although we had head gear on, we were told not to do any high kicks. 🙁 Unfortunate for me, because it is my high kicks that gives me the advantage. I did okay with the sparring I thought, especially for someone who hasn’t been doing much sparring lately. My knee just isn’t always up for it. Although, now that I’m getting stronger because I do weight training still, I think I should get to sparring classes more often. Well, my first sparring opponent was a little heavier than me. Right now, if I competed I’d be in the heavy end of the fly weight division. I weigh 109 to 110 lbs (around 49.5 to 50 kg). My sparring opponent is about ten pounds heavier, I’d guess, so she’d be in the bantam weight division. Believe it or not, but a few pounds makes a big difference in sparring! But I thought I held up fine – I thought I couldn’t even kick after running 10 km. We each sparred twice. My second sparring opponent was a tall kid, who for some reason seemed scared of me. I ended up chasing him out of our imaginary ring a few times. Though, realistically he had a longer reach than me and should have been able to get some good kicks on me.

The last part of our test was board breaking. We all had to do the same techniques for the breaks. We had to do four hand techniques and four kicking techniques. The hand techniques were punch, ridge hand, knife hand, and elbow strike. We were required to break one board with each technique – we could try more if we wanted. The four kicking techniques were front snap kick, side kick, back kick, and spinning hook kick. For the kicking techniques, we technically had to break the same number of boards as the dan level we were testing for, that is, I was supposed to break two boards for each kick.

I decided to try two boards for my punch break. Technically for second dan, we should be able to break two boards together. I punched the two boards hard with my right fist. Something felt wrong. The boards didn’t feel like they were giving way. I moved my fist away and saw that there was an indent where I hit the board with my knuckle. I tried two more times and still couldn’t break the two boards together. There were two more indents where my knuckle hit the board. Although to me, it looked like the boards weren’t breaking, it seems the second board was breaking behind the first board. For some reason the first board was absorbing the power and the second board was breaking. By this time, I thought my hand might be hurting too much. I asked to see the second board. Holding the second board from the top with my left hand, I punched the almost broken board twice with my right punch. It finally broke – the bottom half of it falling to the ground.

The next technique was ridge hand. I hit the single board using my right hand. It didn’t break, and my hand was starting to get sore. I decided to come back to it. The next technique was knife hand. I used my right hand again. One swift move, and this time the board cracked apart. The last technique was elbow strike. I was too close on the first try and had to check my stance. I hit the board once more, and it cracked apart.

Finally, I went back to try the ridge hand. This time I decided to use my left hand, which is stronger overall. I hit the board swiftly with my left ridge hand- this time the board cracked apart. The ridge hand is one of the harder hand techniques to use to break with because it is easy to break the whole hand. For the ridge hand, the striking area is the side with the thumb. The thumb is held tight to the palm and the fingers are extended straight out, similar to a knife hand except the striking area is the opposite side of the hand. I’m just glad I didn’t break my hand doing the ridge hand.

After the hand breaks, I checked my hands out. The left hand was a little red from doing the ridge hand, but thankfully not swollen. I’m noticing now though that I must have hit a nerve in my left hand. If I touch my wrist just below my thumb, I feel tingling in my hand. It reminds me of the nerve damage I had from knee surgery. The redness from my left hand went away fairly fast. The two knuckles on my right hand are bruised from the punching. They were quite swollen at first. The swelling has since gone down a bit, so now it’s mostly just purplish around the two knuckles. I had Nathan do some reiki on my hands right away. Amazingly, it took the swelling down pretty fast.

I was a little bummed out about not being able to punch through two boards. As a colour belt, I broke two boards before using a hammer fist. This time I thought I’d be able to break them with a punch. Unfortunately, I found out later the boards might have been damp from the constant humidity in the summer. This explains why there were indents in the board where I hit it.

After the hand breaks, we did our kicking breaks. I usually don’t have much problems breaking boards with kicks. However, because of the run earlier, my legs felt pretty tired. My legs just didn’t want to do any more work. I suppose because I already tried breaking two boards with a hand technique, the Master decided I didn’t have to do two boards for the kicks. I was given one board for each of the kicking techniques. I snapped the first board easy with my right front snap kick. The side kick was a little harder. I used my left leg. The striking area with the side kick is the blade of the foot, but with my left leg it’s sometimes hard to form the blade. So I switched and broke the board with my right leg side kick. Next was back kick. I ended up doing this one with my right leg again. The last breaking technique was spinning hook kick. It took me three or four tries to break the board. For some reason, I was having problems getting the right balance and flow of the technique. The biggest thing with the spinning hook kick is being able to spin on the supporting foot properly, which means being on the toes. When tired, the muscles in the foot and the leg don’t want to support standing up on the toes to spin so the other leg can come around and kick. In any case, I did break the board. It just took some more effort than normal to get a good kick out.

Finally, we were done our test for the day. We could go home and relax. Most of us had been up since 5 a.m. and the test finished around 2:30 p.m. I actually woke up at 3:30 a.m. that day. I was very tired. I ate a little bit after the test, then went home and washed up a bit. I put ice on my right hand, then crashed on the bed. I woke up later in time to watch The Last Samurai, which happened to be on TV. Excellent sword fighting in that movie. The movie was over by 2:00 a.m. and I ended up back in bed fast asleep. I had to get some rest for the next day, which was the BBQ party and demo.

I woke up a little later than I should have on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. I had to be at the do jang at 9:00 a.m. Unfortunately, I forgot about the subway being closed and for some reason couldn’t catch the night bus on my route heading west. I waited then finally decided that since it was 9:00 a.m. to just walk to the next subway and see if it was open. Apparently, it opens at 9:00 a.m. now. Sheesh… I could have stayed home until almost 9 instead of leaving earlier and waiting a half hour for transit to open. I got to the do jang at 9:15 a.m. We had time to change and practice a little bit, then head out to Christie Pits to help set up for the BBQ.

It was a long morning. The colour belts started showing up around 10:30 for their colour belt test that day. Meanwhile, the black belts testing had nothing much to do, but to practice our demo (Master’s order). The colour belts tested at 11:15 a.m. After their test, we did our black belt demo. Our demo consisted of many board breaking techniques. Everyone got to do something they wanted to do instead of the standard breaks during the test. I was one of the last ones to perform.

I decided earlier to do three spinning hook kicks for the demo – low, middle, high. I was tempted to change the demo to three tornado kicks, as they were actually easier for me that day. I was still tired and my legs still didn’t want to cooperate. Plus, kicking on grass is a little different. The ground is not consistently flat and smooth like the do jang floor, which has special firm padded mats. A small incline can throw your spinning hook kick off. The tornado kick isn’t affected by the ground so much because you’re off the ground during the kick. I did manage to break all the boards with the spinning hook kicks, but not one right after the other as I wanted to. Ah well… we were all tired from the 10k run the other day, so it’s kind of hard to expect us to perform at our best.

After the demo, we each had to give a two to five minute speech. I was a little nervous about my speech, but I guess it was fine. I dislike giving speeches, though in university I was graded well on presentations and speaking. For those who are interested, you can read the text of my speech, Black Belt Means.

After everyone was done their speeches, it was the belt ceremony. We all lined up to receive our new black belts from the Master and to shake hands with the other black belts who were grading us. 😀 Yay! I finally got my second dan belt. Next, we shook hands with the other black belts who graded us and they got to slap/punch us in the shoulder. Well, the guys got punched and the girls got slapped. It’s part of the tradition. The tradition is that a higher belt will pass on some of their power to the new black belts by punching them. After we got our belts, we could finally eat! Yay! Korean BBQ is yummy!

The BBQ party finished at 3:00 p.m. and everyone started to head home. Nathan showed up in time for the black belt demo in order to accompany me home after. When we got home, I washed up and crashed on the bed just like the other day. It had been a long and tiring weekend.

I woke up later that night for a bit, and did some stuff for a few hours. My hand was still sore from the punching the day before. I went back to sleep again, and must have slept like a log because I don’t remember Nathan waking up Monday morning for work. I woke up around noon Monday in time to take my mom to her doctor’s appointment. Afterwards, I spent most of the day relaxing on the couch (and typing up this blog entry).

Overall, I have to say I am happy with this black belt test. When I tested for my first dan, I was still recovering from knee surgery and was not at my peak. I could barely do a spinning hook kick when prior to the injury I could do a half-decent 360 spinning hook kick. One year after surgery, my knee still couldn’t handle the weight bearing. I have since increased my core body strength so that my knee doesn’t feel the weight so much. Having good muscles is essential to martial arts in order to prevent injury. Over the past two years, I have managed to increase my strength past the level I was at before injury. I find this an amazing accomplishment.

I’m pleased that I was able to go through with the test after running a 10k. I’m happy about my performance on the run. When I read my first post about the 10k run, I recall how I wasn’t so sure if I would even like running. I tried it when I was younger and just couldn’t remain disciplined enough to keep training. Maybe it was because this time I had a goal and a purpose for running. I suppose I couldn’t run if it was just for running – the running had a purpose. Running has improved my abilities as a martial artist by increasing my cardio, strength, and endurance. I finished the 10k run in about 1 hour 11 minutes – this is pretty good for someone who doesn’t run for sport or competitively. I can also run 5.7 km in 35 minutes which is a definite improvement when before it took me 45 minutes to cover 5.5 km both walking and running (see my previous post on the trail run.) And I daresay, I showed my cynical side something – I actually like running now! There are days when I will want the run because it feels good to be outside with fresh air and sunshine. I always feel better after a run.

I also feel particularly happy because it has been a long road from first dan to second dan in the past two years. I’ve learned some things, not just about taekwondo, but how to be a better teacher. I still have more to learn, and that is what the being a black belt is about. As a black belt, we focus more on helping others and learn how to be an effective teacher. This means not only being good at what we do, but also requires us to be good role models. It also requires us to be able to read people and try to understand what they are going through at a given time. It means being available for the student when needed, but not interfering when it’s not necessary. It means not letting our ego or desire for admiration dictate our actions, but rather letting others’ need for help guide our actions. In many ways, being a black belt requires compassion and understanding just as much as it requires strict discipline and firmness. I find these are qualities that are very difficult to balance out, and it will take years to find that delicate balance.

As I have been writing this, I’m still pretty tired, and I’m still absorbing everything that’s happened this weekend. It always takes a while before I realize I have achieved a new belt level. It usually doesn’t sink in until I’ve been in class for a few days. For now, I’m just happy to sit back, relax a bit, recharge my personal store of batteries, and just enjoy the achievement. Few people realize or understand how much of an accomplishment it is to advance in a martial art. It really is much to take in, especially at the black belt level.

Funny enough, the gods have deemed it appropriate that this blog entry be the 100th entry under my training diary category! I suppose the gods have blessed my martial arts path. 😀

I still can’t believe I have a second dan. I’m sitting here still waiting for it all to sink in.

Your local webmistress and black belt
Brigid’s Flame

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