Outdoor black belt test
We met soon after sunrise on early Sunday morning, May 8th, 2016. A parking lot full of anticipation, excitement, and worry for the unknown. Cloud covered skies, the students began a light warm up with the instruction of SuSa Stern, who is testing for his 4th Degree black belt. The parents congregate and watch their children warm up, some stand with pride and some stand with concern. They know that this will be a challenge for their children and they are supportive of their growth, yet you can still see the butterfly’s attempting to leave their belly’s. After a short safety talk with the students, Grand Master Yoo calls for a quick staff meeting, to position the leaders roles. We line up, put our bags on, and run into the beginning of a once-in-a-life-time experience – The Black Belt Outdoor Test.
The rain begins almost as soon as we start running. The way to the central meeting point is about 2 miles, and is mostly uphill. This is the time where it feels hardest. This is where the masters can see who has prepared well. Students, although physically capable will often have extreme doubt in themselves in this beginning stage if they have not adequately prepared for the running test. We can also see some well prepared students really begin to shine. They seem to let their fears dissipate and become vigorous in their endeavor to find his or her own true potential.
We meet at the second reservoir, where we remove our bags, and adjust our clothing to meet the weather conditions. Then we begin the mid distance runs. For the higher level’s there is a long loop measuring around 2 miles, for the 1st degree candidates there is a shorter loop measuring about 1.3 miles. They run 2 times around the loop. During this portion of the test, many of the students begin to rise. The initial fears and thoughts about preparation are subsiding. Many of the students who started off rough, seeing that the test is going by and they haven’t quit yet, begin to recognize that they can overcome these difficulties only if they provide their effort. For some, this becomes like a small enlightenment, and they become filled with a potential to carry on with strength and enthusiasm. The leaders look for those types of students, who even though wet, and out of breath, still look to see what is coming next, and are cheerful with their fellows. We are happy to announce that there were plenty students like this, and few who complained.
The Final portions of the test included short distance running, sprints, freestyle kicking training, and a muddy duck walk. This section is less reliant on endurance, and more reliant on explosive energy and determination. It is no longer time to pace yourself, its time to see what you are made of. The rain refused to stop, and the students all pushed through, some strong, some weak, but nobody quit.
We finished with a short group meditation, and small discussion about the test. Wet and cold, we began our journey back to the group of parents who were waiting our arrival. The rain stopped as soon as we arrived at the parking lot. After hugs and conversation, we took some pictures and the students were off to their homes, where they review themselves, and look back at the challenges that they faced.
Written by Master Ji-Sun(Joe Lipman)