In November of 2007 I took on a new challenge in the form of Tae Kwon Do. Things have changed a lot since I took that trial class way back then. Last year I wrote about my struggles in mastering new things in Tae Kwon Do. One year, five months and one day later I'm now a red belt. 8 colored belts down, bodan belt to go. Then comes the hard part; the journey to Black Belt. Today was test day. It was a good test. I remembered all the steps of my form, and my focus was good.
I learned a very important lesson on Friday which helped me yesterday at the ICA Spring Open (details at....) and today during the test. Twice a month at the do jang we have board breaking classes. Board breaking is an important part of our training. It helps with focus, concentration and technique. It's also a confidence builder. Without good focus and concentration it's hard to use good technique. Without good technique it's almost impossible to break the board. The part of the equation is believing that one can break the board. At the lower belt levels the breaks are fairly simple, and one can get by with less then stellar technique. At the higher belt levels, the breaks are more difficult. Sloppy technique doesn't cut it.
The board break for today's test was a spinning hook kick. For Friday's board breaking session I did that break with both left and right feet. I did both on the first attempt. Next was a back kick which was a break I had done for my blue and purple belt tests. I had no problem with the right foot, but for some reason I could not break it with my left foot.
The last break I was to do was a straight fist break. I don't like breaking boards with my hands very much. I'm always afraid of how much it's going to hurt. I rushed into my attempt to break the board. All I managed to do was break the skin on two knuckles. I then broke the board with a hammer fist. On that break one uses the meaty part of the hand to make contact with the board.
Unknown to me, Grandmaster Kim was watching from outside the do jang. He observed how I gone about doing the last few unsuccessful breaks. When you're a junior belt he may not be overly critical of your performance. Once you become more senior amongst the color belts, more is expected and he will point out the mistakes and make an example of you in front of the group. I guess now I've made the grade, because I got it big time. His observations were that I did not set myself in proper stance, my technique was sloppy, and that I was totally unfocused in my attempt to break the board.
In thinking about what happened on the last few attempts, it reminded me of what happens to me in chess. After doing the two most difficult kicks on the first try, I think I had gotten a little overconfident. It's easy to get pumped up when the black belts are watching and applauding your efforts. I got a little too pumped up and rushed the back kicks. Then I got flustered when I couldn't do the back kick break with the left foot. By the time I got to the fist break, I'm thinking "There is no freaking way I'm breaking this board with my knuckles." I I just hauled off and punched the board straight on. My thoughts did me in.
Does this sound familiar? Yep. Recently way too many chess games have come to unfortunate conclusions due to poor execution, lack of focus and concentration, loss of confidence and poor time management. I thought a lot about what Grandmaster Kim said to me on Friday, and tried to apply to my games this past weekend. My results were mixed, but I seemed to be more aware of what was going on. There is still much I need to do to avoid digging the holes that I till find myself in. It's hard to do much against an International Master when you let him totally tie your pieces up, and all you can do is sit back and wait for the inevitable. I guess that's why he out rates me by 800 points.
Our regularly scheduled chess programming will resume in my next post.