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Black Sash (no not the bad TV show)

I don't know officially yet, but I am under the impression that I passed my 1st Degree Black Sash Test for Hwa Rang Do® yesterday. :) I think I could have done better, but I still believe I had a strong showing.

The test consisted of a 2 hour written exam with multiple choice, short answer, and essay sections. Then a little warm up time, and into the physical test. The best part of the physical test was that I was the put at the front of the class, so whenever we had to do anything one at a time, I had to go first... and when I say, "best part" and I mean "scary part."

We had to do our 8 short forms (1 short form is a combination of approximately 2 or 3 kicks and 3-5 punches). After that we were paired off with our partners to do techniques. The techniques we were asked to demonstrate were defense against throws (your partner grabs your uniform and steps in to do a judo type shoulder throw and you stop them and bring pain to their world) and defense against knife attacks (where the partner attacks with a knife and you stop them and bring pain to their world).

Kyle and I got put RIGHT up in front of the Master's table, no pressure right? All of the techniques went pretty well, although some how I did managed to poke myself with the knife and get the TINIEST little hole on the top of my forearm. Ah well, not perfect, but if someone is attacking me with a knife that would be an acceptable level of damage on my part. :) 6 of us did the techniques in 1 group and the other 6 in the next group, so we got to rest during the next 6. Not that we _really_ needed it, we managed to finish our techniques 2nd in our group, so we were going slowing enough to keep from blowing all of our energy but fast enough to not be the slowest in the group. So that was a posiitive.

After that we all got back up to do our 9 long forms. It's hard to describe without seeing them, but just imagine kicking, punching, blocking, jumping and spinning for about 10 minutes without stopping. So in other words... damn that was hard. :) After the long forms came the weapon forms. First up was Ssang Jyel Bang Hyung (aka Nunchaku Form for the non-Koreans in the house), but my hands were SO sweaty that I was terrified I was going to drop them. I really wanted to _rip_ that form out but I just knew if I pushed it I would drop them and that would get me stuck in the back hallway doing 100 pushups on my knuckles.... and no one wants that. Jang Bang Hyung (staff form) came next and I felt really strong on it. One of the other 1st Dan candidates told me after the test that he was very impressed by it, woo! Next was Gum Moo Hyung (Sword form) and that went pretty well too. Ever since the Black Sash conference this summer I've felt highly confident at all of the weapon forms.

Next came sparring. I was matched up with Carsten Bjorn from Denmark who is a really nice and who beat the crap out of me. :) It actually wasn't that bad, we were fairly even but I'd have to tip the scales in his way as to who would have won the fight.

Last came breaking. This was the part I was most afraid of because I had never really done it. The only practicing I've been able to do was not really a good approximation. First breaking is the Speed and Precision 5 Direction Board Breaking. I ran over and got my stack of 5 boards (about 1" thick I think) and handed them out to 5 people to hold. They all stood in a circle around me, I positioned them for my pre-determined set of kicks, bowed to Do Joo Nim and set in a ready stance. The speed aspect of the test is that you have to do it in less than 4 seconds (they say 3 seconds, but 3.x is good enough so less than 4 seconds is a better way to describe it). The precision aspect of the test is that you have to hit the center of the board when you kick it or it will not break. If you hit it off to the edge the person holding it will fold under the force before the board does. The 5 directions are front kick (ball of the foot to the front), side kick (heel to the side), back kick (heel to the back), high spin kick (high circular kick with the heel that you see on TV the most), and finally low spin kick (about 8" off the ground). I managed to break 4 of the boards, missing the low spin, in 4.5 seconds. Woo! I'm not really sure if I passed because the time was too slow, but no one in the entire test broke all 5 boards and only one guy (who was SUPER fast) did it in 2.7 seconds, so I feel very proud of my performance.

Last and certainly not least was the Power Break. 2 layers of 1.5 inch concrete separated by 1-2 mm spacers. The spacers is important because it makes it a LOT easier than doing 3 inches of concrete. Again... I was the first one up. I grabbed my concrete went over to the two concrete blocks in front of the Master's table and set the slabs spanning between the two blocks. I don't really even remember what I was thinking at the time. I began the energy building routine shown to me by DJN. I stood in front of the concrete, I tightened my toes, my ankles, my calfs, my thighs, my abdomen and breathed. My hands started feeling very heavy and I drew them up in front of me and stepped over the concrete so it was between my legs and under my center of gravity. I breathed and began moving my hand up and down at the concrete in the path of motion I would eventually take to break them. I twisted back and forth tighting my abdomen. Then I started to build my kiap (the loud yell you see in movies). In practice I usually pump 3-4 times after beginning the kiap before I actually hit. I really have no idea how many times I did it because my memory stops there. I don't remember what happened next... I remember moving my hand and beginning my kiap, then the next thing I know my hand was already through the concrete and the pieces were at my feet. It was totally weird. As Jenn descibes it, it was the Moo Shin, the "No Mind" where the body can act without the hinderance of the mind. Probably the coolest part was when I talked to one of the other candidates after the test and he said, "it was incredible, man, you powdered those blocks, it was awesome." :) :) :)

I bowed and got back in line. Watching each person going, concentrating on them trying to send them ki (or good vibes, whichever would make it through). It wasn't until about 6 people had gone through that I came to the realization that I was done. Sure, the _test_ wasn't over, but _my test_ was over! I couldn't believe it! WOOO!!!! Yay! I guess there are advantages to going first, eh?

Some more broken concrete and speeches later, we were sent out to wait for the 2nd and 3rd Dan candidates to test for 3rd and 4th respectively. We came out and held boards during the breaking, which was cool. For the 3rd Dan, he handed me a board and showed me where to hold it but I had no idea in what order he was going to hit mine so I was caught off guard when he started first by jumping into the splits and breaking my board and another board on the opposite side at the same time. *shakes head* Damn.

After that we got cleaned up and headed over to DJN's house for his birthday party and testing celebration.

Do Joo Nim and the student and teachers from our school

A great conversation with Instr. Zimmerman, some GREAT food, much bad karaoke, MANY ettiquette screw ups on my account and 2 shots of Scotch later... I was too tired to continue. We said all of our good byes, took some pictures with DJN and Jenn drove us home. I apparently didn't waste too much time before falling asleep..

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