April 9, 2016
On March 19th, 2013 I started my journey through the ranks of Tae Kwon Do. As you can see in this picture, when I started my son was already a 1st Permanent Brown Belt. Also in this picture is my Wife and Daughter in the Jung's T-shirts, they support us and do many things for Tae Kwon Do behind the scenes, like get us on Channel 13's work out of the week.
Here I am three years into my Tae Kwon Do journey getting prepared for my test to attain the rank of 1st Dan. I can hardly believe where I am at on this journey today, it has been a lot of work, practice, studying, and participating in all kind of events to reach this point of my progression through the ranks. Before I had knowledge of martial arts and what it meant to be a black belt, I was ignorant of the hard work one had to do to qualify for this honor. Many lay people that do not have knowledge about this art think that a black belt is someone who is very dangerous and any conflict with this person should be avoided at any cost. Those of us that have chosen to participate in Tae Kwon Do, know that the rank of black belt is an honor, and with it comes many responsibilities and expectations.
So one may ask, "how do you become a black belt?", and I will tell them to sit down because this answer will take awhile. First we learn many kicks, blocks, punches, and stances, which are used to perform our art of foot and hand. We need to know ten International Tae Kwon Do Federation (ITF) forms and their meanings. That's a lot of Korean history, and a total of 297 movements. We also have to learn eight World Tae Kwon Do Federation (WTF) forms and their meanings. The meanings of these forms are aligned with the elements in our environment, like heaven, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain, and earth. There are a total of 227 movements in the eight WTF forms. In addition to this we learn and memorize three and one step sparring movements. There are 28 different movements we have to know, and we must make up several of our own sparring movements. Then we learn board and cement breaking techniques, using the knowledge learned as we progress through the ranks to execute these accomplishments. Usually the person receiving this information will be in disbelief about how much knowledge one must acquire to pass a black belt test, and I will admit when I first was looking into participating in this art, I had no idea how much information we must learn besides the actual execution of the forms. Besides the forms, meanings, and sparring, a black belt candidate must also learn many commands and counting in the Korean language. This is a difficult task, especially for a person in their middle 50s.
As I progressed through the ranks and learned all of these prerequisites for black belt, I also learned and practiced the tenants of Tae Kwon Do. From day one I learned the rules of the Do Jang, such as no shoes, bow to the flags, respect higher belts, and so on. I also began practicing the tenants. When I was testing for my lower color belts one of the judges asked me what my favorite tenant was. As I was exhausted from testing and my uniform soaking wet with sweat, I said, "Perseverance, Mam!". I believed that at the time, because no matter how tough or hard the program was, I would do my best to not quit. By practicing all the tenants of Tae Kwon Do, one can overcome most any obstacle. Today as I continue to progress in the program, I feel my favorite tenant has changed. To me Tae Kwon Do has become more of a spiritual journey, than a physical one. I believe my spirit is what keeps me going, and as long as I am conscious of my inner spirit, I will be able to persevere and conquer all that comes before me. No matter how much physical strength a person has, they are weak if their spirit is sick. Tae Kwon Do has given me a strong and healthy spirit, mind, and body.
So now that I have done my time in the lower ranks, gained all this knowledge, and am about to test for First Dan, what do I do after that. Well this is the best part because I get to help those coming up the ranks with their forms, movements, definitions, and techniques. Sharing my experience with others, and helping them to progress is very satisfying. Watching people come into the do jang and sticking with the program, I get to relive my journey through helping them attain their goals. As they go through the ranks, it is amazing to see the transformations that take place.