No I didn't get pissed off after losing and smash a chess board over my opponent's head. Today I took a trial class in Tae Kwon Do, and I actually broke a board with my hand at the end. I've been kicking around the idea of taking some sort of martial arts for a few years. Even before starting to read Waitzkin's "Art of Learning", the idea of developing mental and physical discipline from martial arts has intrigued me. I had taken one semester of judo in college, and found the discipline and ritual of the class fascinating. However at the time I had too many other sports and stuff going on to really follow up on it.
I've had a number of my chess students over the years participate in Tae Kwon Do. My most hard working and disciplined students were the ones who also had great success in Tae Kwon Do. I had one student who I started working with in second grade. As a third grader he went 7-0 in the Primary under 800 section at Nationals. (His tiebreaks sucked so he ended out in third.) His rating peaked around 1500, and yes he's another one of my former students who's beaten me in a few tournaments. He's now a sophomore at Cornell and on the Tae Kwon Do team. (Damn that makes me feel old!)
This past spring I checked out a couple of the martial arts academies in my town, but either their adult classes were full or on my chess nights, so it was just one of those things that got set aside. Last Friday I was in a shopping center that has a Do Jang (Tae Kwon Do School) there. I've gone by it many times when they've had children's classes going on, and I had even asked about adult classes. However I've never summoned up the courage to give the trial class a try. This time as I went by there was an adult class of mostly women participating. I guess seeing all these women there inspired me to at least go in and ask about classes, and they sold me on trying a trial class.
So today I came and took my trial class. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised by what we covered in this 45 minute class. By the end he had me kicking and hitting targets. And yes I actually did break a board in half. There was a lot to think about in terms of form, breathing and movement. My balance needs work, and I need to focus on technique.
What does this have to do with chess? I think the focus that it takes to master the various forms and movements in Tae Kwon Do will help in the focus I need to master positions I encounter over the board. It will be interesting too see if it helps me stay focused down to the end. I signed up for a year. I start next week. We'll see where this all takes me. Now I guess I have finish the Waitzkin book. I got bogged down once he stopped talking about chess.
It may have been coincidence, but I had a very good game tonight. My opponent was attacking like crazy, but I defending well. He made a few mistakes giving up the tension he had built. I stayed calm, and avoided little cheap shots. This was my first win after my Saturday meltdown. I had lost 5 games and had one draw since Saturday. Getting past the mental block of blowing a won position, and staying on track was important to me emotionally.
Tomorrow will be a good test. It's the monthly St. John's Masters at the Marshall. This is the tournament for players rated over 2100, but players lower then that can pay a qualifier fee and try be the top score on Thursday night. This time I managed to win a game on the night I paid the qualifier fee. In September I was the only one who paid, and I went 0-4 in the Thursday event, and followed up with another 0-4 in the masters tournament. Stay tuned for my report.