March 7, 2017
Upon arriving to class tonight, I noticed little room to sit down in the lobby. Puzzled for a moment by finding a spot to sit and put on my foot protectors, I managed to squeeze into a chair and observe what was going on. I noticed that a blue belt student was practicing board breaking with the supervision and coaching of Master I. Delgado. She seemed somewhat upset by her efforts, and my heart went out to her. The one and only time I had ever tried board breaking, I felt like a total failure.
Before I could even completely pull on one foot protector, Master Delgado called out my name to show the student how it is done. I smiled, and laughed nervously, saying, “You know I can’t do that.” Looking closely, I saw that it was a harder color-coded board than the lightest one which I couldn’t break the time I had tried to break one in a previous class. Master Delgado said that was then, and he bet I could do it now.
Gathering my courage, and walking over to the board with just one foot protector (not even fastened and wondering if I was going to break my hand), I gave it a try, and, no surprise to me, it did not break – at least my hand didn’t feel broken, whew! Master I. Delgado then switched the board to the lighter color-coded board and asked the frustrated student to step up and teach me how to do it correctly. The student then proceeded to teach me where to place my hand upon impact, what part of my hand to use, and how to use my hips and arm to channel the most energy and force. I wanted to help the instructing student to at least be able to smile with confidence regarding her teaching skills, so I drew courage from that goal and tried again. This time the board did break, and Master I. Delgado congratulated me, but I said to him I was able to break it due to having a good teacher and smiled at the student who had taught me. The student now seemed happier and more confident to break the harder board. I was ecstatic! I had just broken my first board, and my hand was not even sore, cool.
Master I. Delgado is always encouraging students to teach other students in class. He tells us often how teaching other students helps to refine our own skills. As an educator, I completely agree with this philosophy of teaching. In teaching my own courses, I strive to be more of a facilitator than a lecturer and encourage discussion and peer review because it promotes critical thinking and practical knowledge to reinforce learning.
It was now time to begin class. Class size was large tonight in comparison to normal classes, so I couldn’t see as well since I am toward the back due to my rank and a similarly ranked tall student being moved in front of me (not really a problem after stepping a little to the right). The student was moved there since he had taken classes with Master Delgado in the past, but he was still trying to relearn the information and really tall. I am only 5′ 3″.
We began with exercises and patterns set to music. I love working with music. I am musician (piano), so it helps me to focus and relax; it has also helped my mental rhythm. Sometimes our patterns are to be done so fast that it appears to be impossible, but I have found myself thinking the same way sometimes about playing a piece of piano music. It is starting to click with me now that trying to do the impossible speeds up the possible for not just Taekwondo, but also for other things in life, such as playing music.
Tonight we worked with Chong Ji and Dan Gunn form patterns by starting with repetitive short segments to using all of the steps in each pattern. I need to practice Dan Gunn pattern at home, not knowing all the steps for the full pattern; but did I notice something different tonight in my approach to doing the forms. For the first time I felt I was really looking straight ahead at what was in front of me. I think previously my mind had been focusing on the moves rather on what I was seeing in front of me. It was such a liberating feeling.
Then Master Delgado told us that he would be videotaping everyone doing all the patterns. When we could no longer remember the next steps of a pattern, we were to move against the wall. I was definitely the first person to move to the wall since I did not know all of the Dan Gunn steps. After this “game” he called up two blue belts and a black belt student to complete all the patterns while we watched.
Next we worked with partners on one step defense moves. This was great because I still fell this is a weak area for my testing. My assigned partner, Shelly (blue belt) is awesome. She is so patient in teaching me.
We then went from one step self-defense moves to learning to break out of a shoulder grip. Master Delgado stepped over to give me some pointers. The technique we were working on was to chamber as done in our form pattern, such as Chung Ji, and with using our hips we bring our inside fist down on the forearm which has our shoulder, and then the other fist comes down on the aggressor’s shoulder (possibly then grabbing the shirt or shoulder), then the opposite fist comes down on the face of the aggressor. Master I. Delgado’s tip was to think of your fists as hammers which is a really cool analogy. Both my partner and Master I. Delgado reminded me to not forget about using my feet to step in with this technique, and Master I. Delgado reminded me , as he does with every lesson, to relax. I am always trying to concentrate too hard on doing everything correctly. He mentioned that my partner and I both have things to work on as far as doing things correctly. I tend to stiffen up and concentrate too hard on not making a mistake before trying to attempt moves, while my partner doesn’t worry so much in advance about making a mistake as she does after having made the mistake. She says “sorry” a lot after having made a mistake. So I guess what is being said is there are two ways of doing things which can prevent us from reaching our goals in life. The first is to let the thought of making mistakes in trying to reach the goal paralyze us from ever fully attempting, and the other is to let the thought of having already made a mistake paralyze us from continuing to move forward. Master I. Delgado again pointed out that this is a place to make mistakes and to relax and enjoy the process.
After class, Sensei Ish spoke to another student and I about our upcoming belt test. He verbally reviewed the main testing points for the first level test, and he told us that we could call him any time for help. Another thing he mentioned was that there will be a sign up sheet in the lobby for helping to clean the dojo.
Entering the lobby after class, I took off my foot protectors and signed my name to the cleaning list. We are all going to start being responsible for keeping our dojo clean. While doing this, I talked with Master Delgado and the other students about how Taekwondo is helping me to be more balanced and grounded. I have especially am noticing it while playing the piano. Tonight was an enjoyable class, and I am leaving without being as sore as I was from the previous class.