Seeing Red

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.

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In the champions league

In the two years or so since I first took up Taekwon-do, most of the students at roughly the same grade as me had taken part in several competitions but, for various reasons, I just never put myself forward. I did like the idea of competing, though, so back in June I opted to skip a grading in order to hone my technique so that I could compete at blue tag level at the Taekwon-do Champions League event in September.

However, when September rolled around the event was held for juniors only and I didn’t want to hold off on grading any longer. Reluctantly I did my blue belt grading and figured that once people got to that standard they’d know what they were doing in competitions and I’d only get schooled now I’d left it so late.

Still, my friends in the class kept telling me I should at least give it a go because, as the belts progress, there’s only a very narrow window before you get to black belt and at that point the standard really does ramp up. I was keen to give it a go before the chance was gone.

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One year later

12 months down the line and Elisha and I were attending a Taekwon-do grading once again. We had both graded in the summer, with Elisha getting her yellow belt and me adding some green tags to the yellow belt I earned at the end of 2012, so this time I was gong for my green belt and Elisha for her green tags.

Me & Elisha after grading
Green belt and green tags earned.

I had wanted to maintain a pace where I’m half a grade ahead of her, because that way I can help her practice and point out the fine adjustments that she needs to make. For this grading I’d been getting her to concentrate on ensuring her arms were in the right position for her blocks and, in the week before we graded, she had it nailed.

Back in September I felt just about ready to go for my green belt, but missed the grading because I had to look after Jason. Elisha definitely wasn’t ready to go for her green tags back then, and in the mean time there was a patterns seminar we attended to really get our standards up to scratch. Since we did that a month ago I’ve been raring to do the grading and Elisha came on a lot after the seminar, too.

I’ve felt since I started Taekwon-do that I wasn’t in any rush to go for my next belt, but a year between colour belts is maybe stringing it out a bit, so a few months back I increased my direct debit so I could attend as many classes as I liked. Elisha could have that luxury, too, but she does dancing on the same days as the mid-week Taekwon-do classes and I think for it’s probably better for her to do a range of activities anyway.

I’ve really enjoyed stepping up the training level and on a Monday evening I now do an extra Taekwon-do class, followed by a kick-boxing class. The latter has really helped my sparring technique, although taking a bit more of a beating has taken some getting used to! I bought a punch bag to hang up in the garage so that I can practise my technique when I’m working out, but with the weather deteriorating I’m not out there very often at the moment.

Taking up Taekwon-do has been one of the best fitness decisions I’ve ever made, I think – I only wish I’d done it sooner. The other adults in the class who are at a similar level make it a really enjoyable social activity, too, and last night we had a great xmas night out. Classes are all but done for this year, but I’m looking forward to working towards my blue belt in 2014.

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