Martial Arts

Reflections on the eve of the yellow belt test

A milestone: tomorrow is the yellow belt test for me, and the four-month mark of my taekwondo journey.

I tend to overthink.  And I’m letting this yellow belt test freak me out a little. My last experience with a physical fitness test was in elementary school, and does anyone else remember how that went?  I do.

We’d do months of seemingly random game playing in gym–kickball, simple games that did keep us moving around, the ubiquitous parachute everyone seemed to have–then suddenly without warning we’d have a physical fitness test that included things we weren’t practicing in class.  No one was having me practice pull-ups, sit-ups, stretches or squats against the wall in class.  But suddenly one day the Presidential Physical Fitness Test is a thing and we are suddenly graded on all these new things.   Looking back, it’s no wonder PE got a bad rep. I’m not super big on merely teaching to the test but I also think you have some sort of preparation for it!


So here I am, in THIS decade of my life, doing a physical fitness test. The stats look scary: traditionally a 2.5 hour test and a written test that they estimate at an hour. I am lucky because just this month, they’ve divided testing even further (adults and teens used to be together, now separate) so it’s *only* 2 hours.


I got worried about it last evening.  Butterflies, some of those crazy-worry-scenarios, and I had to reason with myself by remembering that this is the first, lowest belt test and for a chunk of that 2 hours I’m watching the other upper belts do the more advanced poomsae and board breaking. No one’s expecting me to be an upper belt, just a white belt wanting to be yellow.

I just have to do my best.

And everything in the test will be what we have done in class–no surprises.  Some of you get this–one of my biggest worries was 2.5 hours without a bathroom break, but 2 sounds more reasonable.  🙂 


And the written test?  Well, I’m studying, and I’m more used to written tests.  Korean history, Korean Taekwondo terminology, and knowing how the study of taekwondo influences our personality and character. Why do we do the same basics every class?  Why do you learn the poomsae?


Despite testing nerves, there is incremental progress in the overall journey. Today, I fit into a pair of jeans I haven’t worn since my kid was born.  That means it has taken me four months to lose one size.  That’s a lot of workouts, a push-up challenge, hikes and home workouts to get that one size down. I would imagine others, especially men, would lose much faster than I have.  But I will agree with opinions I’ve seen online–if you stick with martial arts, you can be in the best shape of your life.  I think it will take another year to get to “the best shape of my life” (remember, my bar isn’t as high as some; my best shape was when I was doing Ashtanga in my 20s) but I’m sticking with it.


While I was being prepped for my written exam, I heard what the black belt testing cycle was like–WAY more intense and completed over the course of months.That made me wonder… In my teens and 20’s I was super goal-oriented and a bit more (ha, maybe a lot more…) aggressive with attaining those goals. I’d probably be going at it with a black belt or nothing attitude.  But now I’m here for the journey, and I’m not approaching this with an all-or-nothing philosophy. Is black belt the goal? I haven’t truly thought that far ahead. My only long-term goal is to stay with it til I get a green belt and then evaluate if it’s still the best path.  Who knows? Life often gives you sharp turns and zig zags, so I’m learning taking my goals with a teaspoon of non-attachment (without diminishing the willingness to work to complete them.)


But tomorrow’s goal? To get to the test on time (it starts VERY early in the morning and currently snowing) and to do my absolute best for two whole hours of jumping jacks (I bet you heard my groan and the sound of my palm hitting my forehead through the computer), basics, poomsae, kicking, one-step sparring and self-defense.  And maybe sometime in the next few weeks, Mr. Ninja will give me a yellow belt.


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