Recently, three years to the week that I became a taekwon-do student, I passed my red belt grading. It’s come along a little slower than it should have done and in that time there are several other students in my class who have overtaken me – even those who started well after I did.
I’ve never been too bothered about racing through the colour belt gradings in a particular time frame. As well as my instructor letting me know when I’m ready to grade, I’ve always had my own personal standard that I feel I should reach before I’ll consider testing.
Back when I did my blue belt grading, I felt I had reached a very good standard with the pattern Yul-Gok. Then, on the day of the test, we had to repeat it over a dozen times. Out of all the times we went through it, I was pulled up for incorrect foot position just once. I felt I nailed that grading, but at the end of the day I got the same pass as those who maybe hadn’t been as ready.
Probably due to that, when I went for my red tag I didn’t put the effort in and I was annoyed at how mediocre I was at the pattern. Still, I passed and as is the way of things you march relentlessly on towards the next grading. But that was where I decided to put the brakes on; I was determined not to do my red belt grading unless I was at a good standard.
The summer grading came and went, and most of the people I’d been at the same level as graded and overtook me. I have to say I was kind of glad I held back, because now there was nobody at my level I ended up the only red tag in the class for a whole three months. That meant I got extra one to one practice at doing my pattern, which really helps iron out all the little nuances that can get overlooked when you’re doing it as a group. There’s no hiding up the back of class when it’s just you and your instructor!
When the day came to grade for my red belt I wasn’t quite as polished at Toi-Gye as I had been at Yul-Gok, but I’d suffered a groin injury a few weeks before it and had barely been able to train at all, so I wasn’t too hard on myself. Getting my red belt at a good standard felt very rewarding and now I’m looking forward to going for my black tag.
Elisha got her red tag the same day and she was very good at the pattern Joong-Gun – the one I stumbled at. Her progress has been slow and steady, but she’ll catch up with me in December if she can get to a good enough standard to get her red belt.
Now that I’m back on track I’m quite looking forward to both of us closing the final chapters on our colour belt journey in 2016.