Yes, there is life outside chess! I actually went nine whole days without playing a single game of chess. No cracktion at the Marshall, no blitz on FICS, no slugging it out with Fritz, nadda, nothing, zippo! I didn't even have to go on vacation to force myself away from the board. Did I suffer from withdrawal? Have a bad case of the shakes? Was I asking where is my next game coming from? Nope. I had other things on my mind.
Taekwondo took up a lot my time. I had two important events within a few days of each other. The first was the American Taekwondo United National Championships on a Saturday, and my promotion test on the Monday following. For the week leading up to the championships I was training every day. I would do extra practice either before or after class. During class our master would have those of us who were competing get up and do their form in front of the class. The first time I had to do it, I was taken by surprise, and found myself being nervous. When I'm nervous I tend to be off balance and prone to making mistakes. This particular form has a lot of side kicks in it. Side kicks are the bane of my existence. I have a lot of problems with balance and pivoting the standing foot. If I'm off balance for any of the side kicks, then things have a tendency of going to hell. The thing I had to work on all week was not allowing myself to get upset by off balance kicks or other mistakes. Staying focused on what was coming, and not dwelling on what I did were the key points.
In many ways it reminds me of what happens to me when I'm ahead materially, but the opponent has a lot of pressure. If I make a mistake that gives back some or all of the advantage I tend to just lose it after that. It's too easy to dwell on the move I should have made. The problem is; dwelling on what should have happened doesn't allow one to focus on the present position. Those types of distractions make it hard to find good moves.
I was looking forward to this tournament because I would be competing against women my age and rank. When I competed in Korea last summer, my competition was younger then me, and some were higher ranked. In our school tournament I was competing against guys who had been brown belts for awhile. They were doing the brown belt form and I was doing the purple belt form. You always lose a little bit with the judges when you're doing a lower belt form.
After busting my butt for the tournament, it ended out being a bit of a let down. There were no other women over 50 in the brown - bodan belt division, so I became a national champion by showing up and doing my form. At least I didn't fall on my face, or make any horrible mistakes. At first I felt funny about being an ATU National Champion, but then I reminded myself of something. How many women start doing Taekwondo in their 50s? If they're out there, they weren't in Queens, NY that weekend. I showed up and competed, so I won.
After competing in the tournament I still had Monday's test to look forward to. Test is sort of a misnomer. If you are allowed to test, it means you're ready to go to the next level. In theory the test is graduation day. You show what you've learned to the masters, and to Grandmaster Kim. No matter how many times I've done the stuff in class and told I'm ready to be promoted it's still nerve wracking. This is my ninth belt promotion test, and mentally it doesn't get any easier. Maybe it's because what I have to perform is more difficult. Now I am a bodan belt. (The belt is red and black.) I still have another form to learn, but I also have to redo everything I learned at the lower belts. My problem is my memory like a sieve, and I tend to forget the old form as soon as I start learning a new one. I guess I will find out how good I am at multi-tasking in Taekwondo. (Hopefully better then I am at chess!)
Lately I've been having trouble with board breaks while kicking. Board breaking is for building confidence, working on focus and proper technique. It started back in April. In Monday's test I had trouble with the spinning hook kick. It took me about five attempts to do it. In the mean time all the other lower ranked belts were breaking on their first or second attempt.
Twice a month we have board breaking classes. I think I was away when the first breaking class was held in June, so I didn't get to practice before the test. The second class was on Friday after the test. It was tempting to not go to class that day so that I wouldn't have face my kicking demons so soon. I kept thinking of reasons not to go to class that day, but decided to suck it up and go. I was even worse on Friday with the damn spinning hook kick then I had been on Monday. It's funny how some days I can nail the kick, and other days I suck. I think the real problem is that I haven't been doing the kick correctly, so when I have broken the board it's probably been dumb luck. I spent time after the class working on the kick, and the master has me doing it differently then I have been doing it. Now I have to unlearn what I was doing before. Somehow this reminds me too much of how I play chess!
In other sports news, I'm starting to ride my bike again. Unfortunately getting out on my bike, reminds what a bunch jerks drivers can be. I just love the fat slobs leaning on their horn, and "Yelling get the @#% off the road." It really makes for a nice ride when you have people like this and this, taking out their frustrations on you. Today I had some lady yell at me and tell me to ride on the sidewalk. "Hey lady, it's against the law to ride on the sidewalk. I'm supposed to be on the road." People like that need to get out of their cars, and get a little exercise. Don't get me started on inconsiderate drivers.
Chess....I'm playing. Some good, some bad. Details in my next post.