I recently decided to delay taking my 3rd degree black belt test.
Phrasing it like that makes it sound like a simple decision but it took a lot of emotionally-fraught consideration on my part, and a consultation with my instructors to come to that conclusion.*
It is really hard for me to back down (or at least sidestep) an important plan I had made for myself – especially when there is a established timeline to follow. However, as Master D reminded me this week, for black belt testing the suggested timeline is a minimum, not a maximum. With that in mind, taking an extra 6-8 months (depending on scheduling) is not a big deal.
Here’s my thought process that led to my decision…
My wrist, broken or not, has been troublesome.
Even though I practiced in a modified way while my wrist was in a brace, the restrictions on my movements prevented me from learning the flow of my new patterns. I order to maintain my balance, I wasn’t even supposed to do any kicking while I had my brace on.
Since ‘TaeKwonDo’ essentially means ‘the art of kicking and punching’, you can imagine how much of my patterns I had to just make a mental note for instead of doing the movement.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuiEzW4jti0&w=560&h=315%5D This video is of someone demonstrating ‘Juche’ one of my newest patterns. Imagine trying to learn this without being able to move your right hand, and without being able to kick or jump. It was tricky, to say the least.
Also, I wasn’t expecting that my movements would still be somewhat restricted when my brace came off. I had sort of thought I could throw myself back into everything once I was brace-free. Instead, I had to take a break from sparring, or any movements where my wrist might strike something.
So, I have spent the past three months being extremely conscious of every movement, which puts me in the overthinking zone. That’s not a good place for me to learn effectively and definitely not a good place for me to build confidence in my movements.
My time has not felt like my own.
In the past few months, I have had a variety of new obligations – a new freelance gig, some family-related things, and some time-consuming volunteer work- that have resulted in a new schedule every week.
All of those things have been fun and worthwhile, but the changing schedules have wreaked havoc on my ADHD brain. My sense of time has gone right out the window.
That means that I haven’t always had the focus I needed for the other aspects of test preparation – studying theory, ensuring that I understood the purpose and methods behind the movements, and practicing my board breaks.
It’s not that I didn’t have the time to do those things, it’s that my perception of my time has been inaccurate.
My heart was not in it.
Normally, the time before a belt test is nerve-wracking, but exciting. Even when the work ahead of me has been hard, I still felt drawn to it. This time, it felt like I was preparing to test just for the sake of taking the test. It seemed like I was doing it because I said I would.
That’s not how I want to approach my tests. I want them to feel like a challenge, not a chore.
I want to feel up to the challenge, I want to feel ready for the work.
Instead, I just felt kind of tired. I knew that I *could* do the work in time, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to. And I didn’t feel prepared to sacrifice other things to make more room for the extra work I needed to do.
It was my own attitude that made me decide that I didn’t want to test in June. I wasn’t in the right headspace for meeting a challenge. I wasn’t feeling any joy in the process.
Once I had acknowledged where I was, I began thinking about what it would be like to test at another time. That’s when I realized that delaying my test meant I would have all summer to practice (I love practicing outside) and I would get to train and test with some of the highest ranking students in my school.
Something clicked for me then.
I felt excited about that future testing. I felt a power in the idea of training with that group, of being challenged to match their skill levels.
I could see the next six months or so laid out in front of me, training in one area and then another. It didn’t feel like I had to know everything at once. And it wasn’t just that the time had expanded that gave me that feeling, it was knowing who would be with me on that journey. I could clearly imagine that test day and I smiled at the thought.
And since I made that decision, every exercise I have done has a type of ease in it.
*Just to be clear, even if I had decided that I was ready, my instructors have the final word. I don’t know what their final word would have been but I know they were concerned about whether I was ready.