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Martial Arts Testing: California’s Got Kuk Sool Talent

Pain quote VT kick 894

November is Testing Time again. The fourth and final one for the year. It’s a time for the instructors to assess our skills and for us to establish where our knowledge gaps are.

It’s s bit like a stage performance, a live show with an audience after several dress rehearsals but it also includes a panel of judges. It could be akin to a California’s Got Kuk Sool Talent Show.

Pain is part of the process. As a previously exercise averse individual the concept of pushing your body till it hurts is counter-intuitive. I didn’t expect to discover where all my muscle groups were when I got out of bed in the morning!

Now however I know that the pain is an indicator of effort. If you’ve worked hard enough a bit of pain is a gold star on your workout sheet and if you don’t feel it you either didn’t work hard enough or its time to ramp up your routine.

I’ve been practicing my spin kicks knowing that for testing I would need to do a high spin kick to break my board. It made me very nervous. “So what part of testing causes you the most anxiety? ” our Chief Instructor, Master Saidi asked me. “Board breaking” I responded “followed by techniques and then forms.” And yes that essentially covers everything we do in testing besides body conditioning.

When considering my level of martial arts skill in relation to the task ahead, I felt like Hiccup in How to Train your Dragon saying ” you just gestured to all of me!”

Spin kicks make me dizzy, I can probably do about five in one direction before my world moves like a merry -go-round. Besides that my limited flexibility in my hips means that I struggle to get good height. So my hip flexors ache too.

The objective then is to not have to kick the board more than once.

I failed. My first kick knocked the JKN’s hand who was unfortunate enough to be holding my board. The next kick broke it but the execution left loads of room for improvement. If this had been a talent show I would not make it to the next round.

The night before in class had been one of my best kicking sessions in a while with my awesome training buddy Ramya. I was nailing the target soundly and powerfully with my heel. My leg was almost straight and my accuracy was great. It had boosted my confidence but at testing there was no hint of this history.

I could hear the voice of the Kuk Sool Won Grandmaster In Hyuk Suh in my head saying “you need more practice!”

Peaking the night before made no difference. It was only about how good you are on the day. Sometimes despite the preparation the cosmic forces deal you an unfortunate hand but that is when the show must go on.

What was heartwarming though was hearing the applause and encouragement from our fellow students. Having a martial arts family helps!

It was also inspiring to watch the more advanced belts execute their techniques. Visible indicators of what can be achieved with committed training. Watching my fellow students made it clear where the Kuk Sool talent resides.

Although failure can be disappointing, tenacity keeps us going and perseverance yields results. You do get what you work for. Masters have failed more than students have even tried. Failure and disappointment are part of the journey too but true strength lies in picking yourself up and trying again.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Kuk Sool: What it’s like to be a Martial Arts Mum at forty something

So much fun training together! Together at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California after an evening class

So much fun training together! The kids and me at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California after an evening class

Mum could you hold the target please?” It’s the summer break and the first thing on my nine year old son’s mind is kicking practice when he wakes up.

Testing Day is about two weeks away and while my children are taking things in their stride I am rather anxious. I need to break a board at this Testing and I need to do it with a spin kick. Unlike jump front kick which gives me a real thrill I have struggled with getting the balance, power and accuracy required with spin kicking.

My training buddies are also working hard on their kicks but as Vineela managed to break a board earlier in the week she is feeling more confident than I am. Ramya popped in yesterday so that we could do some practicing together and her kick is pretty great and consistent so she doesn’t have anything to worry about either.

About the only thing setting my mind at ease is that I don’t only get one chance to break my board.

A stack of boards at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California dojang all ready for Testing Day

A stack of boards at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California dojang all ready for Testing Day

Despite my anxiety though I love facing these challenges. There is always something to push me. Something else out of my comfort zone that needs to be faced and conquered.

I have bruises on my arms from last week’s sparring, I have aching stomach muscles from body conditioning exercises in my last class too. I am trying to increase my flexibility to also assist my kicking and doing the various stretches is challenging to say the least! With hindsight I should have trained my body better about thirty years ago so that it wouldn’t have been so hard now.

I’ve never been an athletic type. Making my body work hard and building up a sweat was something my sporty husband did – not me! My mindset has shifted so much now that I have started Kuk Sool Won. Thanks to Instagram I can easily see that I have been practicing this traditional Korean martial arts system for 23 weeks now. What a journey it is!

There are also so many techniques to learn. Pressure points and joint locks are clearly very effective when executed well but I am having a great deal of difficulty memorizing each technique and I haven’t even learned that many yet! It feels like I forget them the moment they are taught to me. “You are very creative with your techniques” our instructor, Master Saidi chuckles. On numerous occasions he has to remind me to use my “other left”. Thankfully he is very patient and my training buddies, including my husband and kids, are great at helping me too.

Kuk Sool Won is not something I envisioned doing in my forties. I’ve always liked martial arts and started Tai Chi several years ago but when my Sifu immigrated I stopped. It has been a dream of mine to complete a sword form.

When we are warming up in class my son and my seven year old daughter try to encourage me to get my head to the ground during stretches. I can only smile and say I’m doing my best. It hurts but it also gets better with each passing week. Pain is certainly where the growth happens.

My son in action during Kuk Sool Won form training

My son in action during Kuk Sool Won form training

I watch my kids confidently lead warm-up and inwardly cringe at the thought of having to do it myself soon. Speaking in front of people I’m quite accustomed too but doing physical exercises is a completely different kettle of fish.

There are so many lessons to be learned both through learning the martial art and in the situations and discussions it leads to with my family.

You’re treating Testing the same way you treated your University exams!” my husband said to me last week. I had discovered so many mistakes in my     forms and I was practicing hard to fix them. “I don’t like to see you struggle” he added.

That’s really sweet” I responded “but struggling and then practicing is the only way I’m going to get better!”.

Starting something new is a challenge at any age but more so when you’re older and have so many demands on your time. My forty something year old neighbor recently went back to study and successfully changed career paths and is thrilled with her accomplishment despite how tough it was to achieve.

For this martial arts Mum, practice won’t make perfect but just like fear leads to anger then anger leads to hate which leads to the Dark Side, perseverance leads to improvement and improvement leads to encouragement which in turn fuels my aspirations for a healthier body and mind.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Jump front kick – believe you can!

Yoda Quote

It seems perverse to my non-athletic brain to put jumping and kicking into the same move. However after trying it for the first time, I think I’ve found my new favourite kick!

It was my third Kuk Sool Won class. It starts at 7pm so at 6pm I can already feel my anxiety starting to build. It’s still unfamiliar territory and completely out of my comfort zone.

We get through family dinner and I can sense that my heart rate has gone up and my palms are getting clammy. Sweaty palms are a real nuisance – I always feel like I’m holding out a wet fish when someone tries to shake my hand.

Tonight my hubby and two kids are escorting me to class. I can see the kids eyes gleaming as they look at me in my black dobok (uniform) -they look pleased as punch with me. This of course does not prevent them from mocking me for being a white belt. Kids – they certainly know how to keep your ego in check.

Rick leads warm-up and since Master Saidi is busy with tournament registrations he keeps us going with kicking practice.

I managed the first few ok but then Rick mentions the dreaded spin kick. I’ve had episodes of vertigo in the UK and ever since then any form of spinning really ramps up my anxiety levels. My martial arts loving doc said I would be fine as long as I took it slowly . Here goes nothing I thought.

My kicking partner was a rather shy girl with a yellow stripe belt and a hair clip that kept falling out. “Pick that up please. ” Sir asked her “someone may step on it and damage my floor.” I couldn’t suppress my laughter – spoken like a true martial arts Master, no mention of any injury to the foot.

My partner was kind and patient and had to hold the kicking target. I got rather confused with the spin kicks not always knowing which leg to kick with after I turned but I soldiered on. I asked another student, Paul, to demonstrate the kick again and he kindly obliged. That kick will certainly take more practice. I was told though that my kick was fine – I just needed to believe I could do it.

Then Master Saidi called for some jump front kicks. Seriously? I took two steps, jumped and kicked and my foot hit the target with a resounding thwack! It felt awesome and hearing the sound of the contact was extremely satisfying. Like hitting the sweet spot on a driver.

“Do or do not, there is no try ” said Yoda. I think the second kick worked better because I didn’t overthink it. I just did it. I believed I could.

Is there anything you’re overthinking? Believe you can and do it!

 

At the dojang in Dublin, California

At the dojang in Dublin, California

 

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.

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