February 14, 2017
Tonight as I walked into Koryo Do, I focused on the upcoming belt testing scheduled for this Saturday. I needed to have a sponsor as well as to complete an application to test for my white belt. Sensei Ishmel (Ish) agreed to personally sponsor me after some preliminary testing to make sure that I am ready. His time is limited due to his nursing studies.
Before class Sensei Ish asked me if I knew Chong Ji form, and then he asked me to tell him the meaning. I affirmed my knowledge of the form and then told him the meaning. He reminded me of the use of respect by following my responses with “Sir” or “Ma’am”. I mentally noted the reminder and used the respectful manner of address after my next answer. He then questioned my knowledge of the four basic kicks and one steps. I was able to describe the four basic kicks, but I wasn’t sure of what the one steps were specifically. He said he would work with me after class tonight or Thursday to see if I understood everything I needed to know before testing for my white belt.
As class was beginning to line up, I asked Master Delgado if it would be possible for a beginner to join the weapons class. He referred me to his son, Master Jose A. Delgado, who is the instructor for the weapons class. Consulting with Master Jose Delgado, I learned that the weapons class is designed mainly for more advanced students, and he asked me what weapon I would like to learn how to use. When I responded about learning to use a stick, he gave me permission to join the class which meets on Monday night at 7 pm. I didn’t mention that I had ordered a new walking stick to use for when my arthritis flares up which could possibly double as a defensive weapon. I had been introduced to working with a stick in an earlier class and felt an affinity due to having been a baton twirler in my younger years.
We take our places for class to begin, and I notice that Master Delgado is holding his music player. Excitement builds for me. I love working out to music. It helps me with timing and helps me to move without tensing. Since the beginning, Master Delgado has told me that learning to relax should be my focus. Many moves I perform too stiffly which not only slows my movements, but also could even result in injury. When I am tense, I am overthinking instead of letting my body move smoothly working with muscle memory. Learning to relax will also help to make calm assessments and decisions in moments of crisis.
Master Delgado informs us that Sensei Ish had a birthday on Saturday, so we all tell him “”Happy Birthday” as we prepare to begin warming up. We then learn that we are to wish him a happy birthday after every set of push ups and we are to keep a count of how many sets we have done to respond with the number when asked various times throughout the session. Later I learn that this is to help exercise our brain at the same time we are exercising our bodies.
Tonight we practiced forms, kicks, and blocks interspersed with random sets of the push-ups previously mentioned. Most of our workout was synced to music to bolster our sense of timing and rhythm. At the beginner level, we are working mostly on form and muscle memory. For my level, working for the white belt, I work on the nineteen steps of Chong Ji. Chong Ji means heaven and earth and refers to the beginning of all creation. The steps consist of basic blocks and punches. We sometimes are asked to begin the pattern in a different direction. The first time I did this, I did become confused. Now I have learned to keep my concentration no matter the direction. After all, if attacked, I can’t very well position the attacker — hmmm, maybe I can after studying for a few years. 😊 Again these variants help override our natural tendencies and strengthen our mental focus. We finished our class by playing the balloon kicking game which focuses on strategy, teamwork, and accurate kicking. I definitely had a great cardiovascular workout. It is always interesting how my mind wants the workout to end but not end at the same time. It was Valentine’s Day, and Master Delgado had treat bags for us to take home. This was sweet, and I felt the fun of childhood as I picked up my goodies after class.
Next, Sensei Ish worked with me and another student to help prepare us for white belt testing. He personally tested us on the requirements. I found that I had a couple of weaknesses. Remember when I mentioned how we practiced forms beginning in different directions? Well, I have no problem beginning from different directions, but I was now asked to do it with my eyes shut. The first time I attempted it with my eyes shut I became confused, but the second time I was successful. Next we demonstrated the four basic kicks and one step moves. I found that I can demonstrate confidently only three of four one step moves, so I know what I need to focus on for homework and my next class. A good word of advice from Sensei Ish, if I find myself in this situation on testing day, was to demonstrate any move which came natural (picked up over many classes) rather than just stand there. Demonstrating anything learned, even though not a planned move, is better than doing nothing. I was grateful for the extra after-class time my sponsor gave to help me prepare. His extra time is limited and deeply appreciated.
In closing, I am looking forward as always to my next class session. It will be the last chance I have to work on areas of weakness before white belt testing. Putting testing aside, I just always feel better about myself physically and mentally after having completed a session at Koryo Do St. Augustine.