ADHD · fitness · martial arts

A Victory for the Bold: Christine’s 4th Degree Belt Test

The short version of this post goes like this:

I did it! I just earned my 4th degree black belt in ITF Taekwondo!

Image description - Master Scott Downey, Me, and Master Cathy Downey right after the test. They are both in blue suits with white shirts and yellow ties, I am in my white dobok and we are all standing in front of an International Taekwondo Federation flag.
I have a version of this post-test photo where I am smirking but I was so tired that my smirk made me look unhinged rather than mischievous so I chose this ‘pretty damn pleased with myself’ one instead. Image description – Master Scott Downey, Me, and Master Cathy Downey right after the test. They are both looking polished and professional in blue suits with white shirts and yellow ties, I am grinning and looking appropriately sweaty and disheveled in my white dobok and we are all standing in front of an International Taekwondo Federation flag.

The longer version goes like this:

After deciding that I was going to be bold about my test, something shifted in how I was preparing. I stopped trying to do things perfectly and started trying to do them well, started trying to feel more comfortable with my movements.

For me, being bold wasn’t about pretending I wasn’t nervous, it was about forging ahead anyway, about showing up with everything I had.

I had a few little spots of worry on Saturday when I just couldn’t make small sections of a few patterns work but I reached out to my TKD friends for reassurance and recruited my husband and my eldest son to help me.

My husband watched a YouTube video of one pattern while I was practicing it in the living room and let me know when my movements didn’t match. My son sat with my pattern instruction book in hand and read me the descriptions of certain sections so I could be sure I was moving correctly.

A selfie of Christine, a white middle aged woman with a round face and chin length curly brown hair and green-framed glasses.  She is sitting in the driver's seat of her car, wearing her white dobok and smirking.
Me in my car before the test. I was trying to take a goofy photo but ended up looking more ‘resigned to my fate’ than I actually felt. I was a bit nervous but leaning a bit more toward excitement – or at least excitement to finally be done! Image description: a selfie of Christine, a white middle aged woman with a round face and chin length curly brown hair and green-framed glasses. She is sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, wearing her white dobok and smirking.

Overall though, I was far less nervous than I usually am. Deciding to be bold was one factor in that and the changes in my ADHD meds since my last test is definitely another but I also think that I am finally reaching the point in my training where things are coming together for me. I am more easily able to explain the purpose of my movements and I can more clearly see the connections between the theory and the practice in TKD.

That’s not to say that I am doing everything perfectly nor that I am applying my theory to every movement. Everyone in TKD is still a student, just some have more practice than others. As a 4th degree black belt (!) I am more advanced than many but I still have lots to learn.

Usually the morning before one of my tests would be a complete blur of nervousness and practice and stress. This time, though, I decided that my only practice would be to read the movement descriptions for my last three patterns. Instead of practicing and then hyperfocusing on small mistakes, I did yoga and meditated and drew a magic symbol on my wrist.

When I was testing for lower ranks, I used to do things like dyeing a strip of my hair and/or paint my nails the colour of my upcoming belt. For my last few tests, I have painted just my thumbnails black (to remind me to focus), but this time I drew a B for bold on my wrist and then put a star and a spiral next to it.

My left forearm with a 'magic' doodle drawn in green sharpie. The drawing is an upper-case B (for bold) with a spiral (for releasing stress) on the left and a star (for effort) on the right.
Sharpie tattoos don’t hold up well to three hours of exertion. The magic worked though. This was taken while I was relaxing on my patio at home after the test. Image description: My left forearm with a ‘magic’ doodle drawn in green sharpie. The drawing is an upper-case B (for bold) with a spiral (for releasing stress) on the left and a star (for effort) on the right. Behind my arm you can see part of my right leg (in black leggings) and my right foot (which is resting on my left knee) as well as parts of my patio, my yoga mat, and the grass in my yard.

A black belt test has a lot to it. I had 18 patterns to do (luckily two students were testing for 5th degree so I didn’t have to do any of the patterns alone at that point), then we did step-sparring (a coordinated attack/defense demonstration), self-defense, endurance drills, and a solo step-by-step demonstration of a pattern identifying the purpose of each movement. After all of that, we try to break some boards.

I did not do my patterns perfectly. Throughout the pandemic, we stopped doing the loud, rhythmic breathing that helps us execute our movements effectively, as well as keeping us all on track. I haven’t even been practicing with it much at home because I was afraid that I would unconsciously use it during class when I wasn’t supposed to. We have only recently gone back to including the breath sounds and we’re a little out of practice with it. And, it turns out, I have been practicing my movements just a little too slowly. The combination trying to speed up a little, adding my own breathing and being able to hear everyone threw me off a little in a few early patterns and then REALLY threw me off for my newest ones.

Since I was concentrating on remembering the movements and remembering to breathe loudly, I didn’t have enough mental space to ALSO choose to ignore everyone else’s breathing and movements. ADHD, after all, is not actually a deficit of attention, it is (among other things) an inability to decide where your attention should be focused. Between nervousness, the challenge of performing newish patterns with an audience while being graded on them, and the addition of the breath factor, I didn’t have the capacity to tune other people out.

But thanks to my instructors’ patience, and a healthy dose of perseverance for all concerned, we got through (and, for the record, I wasn’t the only one making mistakes, which was a comfort.) And even though I was a little slow in my movements, I did my final pattern effectively and I was VERY proud as I shouted the pattern name (Choi Yong) after the last move.

I felt sharp and purposeful for the step-sparring and self-defense and drills, and I was happy with my step-by-step pattern but I was THRILLED with my board breaking.

I did a speed-break hook kick, a 360 back kick, a flying side kick (with a slight modification to minimize jumping), a middle twist kick, and then…and then…

I BROKE A BOARD WITH A PUNCH!

At my very first board-breaking test (about 8 years ago), I tried a punch for my hand-technique but I didn’t coordinate all the elements of the movement properly and I really hurt my knuckles. Since then, I have broken boards with my elbow and my knife-hand (the side of your flattened hand) and my sidefist (aka – the side of your fist) but I couldn’t convince myself that I had the power to punch through a board.

I tried for my last test. In fact, I was supposed to jump up and punch two boards in succession but while I hoped to fluke into it, I didn’t really expect that it would happen.

This time though, I wanted to do it. And because my brain is getting better at applying my theory to my movements, I could think clearly about what I had done wrong before and make a good choice about how to make it work this time.

I used a reverse punch – which means that I had my left leg forward but I was punching with my right hand – so I could generate speed and power without having to move my feet (sometimes the choreography of footwork gets me tangled up.)

I lined myself up, measured my distance, and punched clear through the board as if I do it every day.

It felt like the biggest victory of a marvelously victorious day.

Image description: a stack of pieces of pine board that have been broken in two by my kicks and punches. The stack is sitting on a red table outdoors.
And this isn’t even all of my boards – these are just the pieces I took home. Ki-YA! Image description: a stack of pieces of pine board that have been broken in two by my kicks and punches. The stack is sitting on a red table outdoors.

Getting ready for this test was hard work. I’ve been learning and practicing all through the pandemic – sometimes in person, sometimes on Zoom. During that time, I have been dealing with a variety of challenges in all areas of my life but throughout it all, TKD has been a great way to take care of myself – giving me an external focus that had all kinds of personal benefits. I’m really grateful to have that outlet and I am grateful for the support of my instructors and my fellow students as I train.

Thank you to Master Scott Downey and Master Cathy Downey for the instruction and support, to Ms. Reid and Mr. Dyer for the instruction, trouble-shooting, and encouragement, to Ms. Vere-Holloway for the extra practice, to Mr. James for the encouragement, to Mr. Lake, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Power, and Mr. Codner for holding all of those boards, and to Ms. Gathercole for the empathy. Special thanks to Steve and Alex for helping me with my last few practice sessions, to Lori Savory for choreography help, and to Team Codner for the on-site encouragement.

Congratulations to Ms. Vere-Holloway, Mr. Power, Ms. Gathercole, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Lake, Mr. Codner, and Mr. Hooper for your hard work and for your success yesterday!

ADHD · martial arts

Christine’s Plan for her Belt Test: Being Bold

Cast your thoughts back to the beginning of May when I had a great plan for how I was going to steadily work toward my next black belt test on Sunday, June 19th.

I was so young and foolish then. That was back before a series of migraines (or was it just one long migraine?) and the associated pre & post symptoms kept me groggy and out of sorts for over two weeks in the first part of May.

GIF of two dogs at a car window. At first you see one alert dog looking out the window and then a second rises slowly next to the first, looking disheveled and only half-awake.
Guess which dog represents me in early May? Image description: a GIF of two dogs at a car window. At first you see one alert dog looking out the window and then a second rises slowly next to the first, looking disheveled and only half-awake.

And that was before the perfectly reasonable amount of work tasks I had scheduled for those two weeks had to be jammed into the week before I had to travel to the other side of the country for a conference. And it was before I was travelling, and at a conference, and then off to a writing retreat, and then off to teach a workshop, and then teaching another workshop. And it was before my knee decided to get cranky for a few days and before my back got jealous and did the same.

So, let’s just say that my slow and steady plan was not at all feasible.

Instead, I had to follow a nooks and crannies plan – jamming patterns and practice and exercise and theory into any little space that I could pry open in my schedule.

GIF of a Tetris screen
A visual representation of me fitting practice into my life over the past few weeks. Image description: a GIF of the videos game Tetris in which blocks of various colours fall from the top and you have to move a mass of pre-existing blocks around to let the new ones drop into a space where they will fit.

I had to use persistence (which, when I can activate it, is one of my superpowers) to just keep plugging away at everything and trust that it would work out.

I did my written theory test last week and I did quite well. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to work out some of the correct answers by applying my knowledge, even when I didn’t *know* the answer for sure.

All the physical testing will be on Sunday and even though I haven’t been able to do things the way I meant to, I still feel good about it.

I wasn’t able to physically practice as much or as often as I had planned to, but I did extra mental/visualization practice whenever I had a chance.

During my physical practice, I alternated between focused practice on my most recent patterns and directing my energy towards sharpening some fundamental movements that will improve my technique overall.

A GIF of a villain from the Austin Powers movies shouting ‘Fire the laser!’
Pretty much what my brain looked like whenever I started practicing. Image description: Frau Farbissina, a villain from the Austin Powers movies, a small woman in a suit with her hair in a business-like updo, is shouting ‘Fire the laser!’ while Dr. Evil, another villain, reacts.

And now I am down to just a few days of practice and I want to spend them wisely.

As I was planning my week, I was tempted to try to create an epic schedule of practice and exercise, but, luckily, a more sensible part of my brain prevailed.

Instead, I plan to do daily yoga, daily practice for my patterns and for other specific movements, and to do some specific stretches and rehab exercises for any persnickety body parts. I’m going to work smart, and work as hard as I need to, but I am not going to run the risk of exhausting myself before my test.

Normally, I go into belt tests reminding myself that ‘chance favours the prepared’ but right now that aphorism is drawing my attending to the gap between my intended preparations and my actual preparations. Focusing on that gap will NOT help so, instead, I have been reminding myself of another saying, ‘fortune favours the bold.’

On Sunday, I am going to show up bold.

In fact, I am determined to boldly go where I have never gone before – into the mental and physical space of being a 4th degree black belt.

A GIF of a character from the animated series ‘Star Trek: Below Decks’ saying ‘That’s boldly going.’​
Yep, just watch me! Image Description: A GIF of Boimler, a character from the animated series ‘Star Trek: Below Decks,’ saying ‘That’s boldly going.’

So, if you were thinking of wishing me luck for Sunday, please wish me boldness instead.

After all, that’s the best way to get fortune to favour me.

Ki-YA!

ADHD · fitness · martial arts

Upcoming: Christine’s 4th Degree Black Belt Test

Sunday, June 19th!

That’s the big day.

I’ve been preparing in a low key way for ages but being only 6-7 weeks out puts my test into a time frame that my brain will accept as ‘real.’

And that means that I can prioritize project Earn My 4th Degree Belt and focus more effectively on the things I need to do to prepare for my test.

Here’s what I am working on:

Fitness

Obviously, improving my fitness level is an ongoing project but with a little over six weeks before my test, I have a very clear short term goal to work toward.

Six weeks is a bit of magic time frame. It’s a short enough time that my brain will buy into pushing myself a little harder – after all, six weeks isn’t forever. And it’s a long enough time that I can actually make some small improvements in my fitness level.

A little girl striking a body building pose.
Borrowing some of Michelle Tanner’s determination for my fitness plans. Image description: Michelle Tanner, the youngest sister from the 80s show Full House, is staring intently forward as she curls her arms down in a pretend bodybuilding pose. This is a joke about a teeny person imagining that she is muscle-bound, but she looks fierce.

I’m in good enough shape to pass my test now if I had to but after six weeks of TKD-focused exercise, it will be just a little easier. And since I want to improve anyway, my impending test gives me a bargaining chip to use if my brain starts chiming in with objections.

Theory

Part of my testing involves being able to complete written and verbal exams about different aspects of TKD, ranging from the technical specifications of movements to historical details of the sport.

I always find this tricky even though, in other contexts, I am perfectly ok with written or verbal tests. I think that having to connect the physical movements of TKD with the surrounding theory trips me up a little.

I have done ok with my theory in the past so it has never been a major crisis but it has made me nervous.

I think this time will be different though because the improvements in my medication, combined with some changes in my day-to-day obligations, has increased my capacity to structure my thinking around TKD.

And, having this capacity six weeks out means that I can also structure my study plan more effectively.

 a person unrolls a set of elaborate plans on a wooden desktop
My plans are a little less complex than this but I like the spirit here. Image description: a person unrolls a set of ‘battle plans’ drawn in crayon.

Patterns

Improving my meds and changing my day-to-day obligations also means that the process of learning my new patterns has been more straightforward this time. I seem to be able to grasp the flow of things more easily and I am holding on to details with far less work than I have had to invest in the past.

This may not all be attributable to the changes mentioned above, it may also be related to the fact that I have been training for a long time and some key elements may finally be firmly in place. (Being a martial artist is a commitment to continual learning so I imagine that I will experience this same sort of feeling again, just on different level, as I progress.)

So, I had three new patterns to learn for this test. I am very confident in one, pretty confident in another, and building my confidence in the third. Six weeks is more than enough time to bring all three up to the same level of confidence.

Three people standing side by side with text below reading ‘Way too many patterns for one person.’
Okay, not toooo many patterns but there are A LOT of things for me to learn and remember. Image description: three people standing side by side, there is a string of lights behind them. Text at the bottom reads ‘Way too many patterns for one person.’

Board Breaking

This is where I really want to do some extra work.

Even though board breaking is the most impressive-looking part of a belt test, it is really a tiny aspect of the process. And because there are a variety of elements involved, no one fails a test if they can’t break one of their boards.

BUT

It still bugs me when I can’t do it.

I struggled with my spinning hook kick break for years but I finally managed it on my last test. And I am not too worried about having to repeat the process with that kick and others for this test.

Three people wearing doboks during a martial arts belt test, two are kneeling and holding a board and one is in mid-air for a kick.
I don’t have a photo of my spinning hook kick but this is me during my last test, about to execute a flying side kick. Shoutout to Mr. James and Mr. Dyer for holding the board for me and to Ms. Zurel for the video I clipped this from. Image description: Me, in my dobok, in mid-air at the edge of a gym mat. Mr. Dyer and Mr. James are kneeling on the mat holding up a board for me to kick.

This time my personal marker of my skill will be to finally break a board with a punch.

I have used a variety of other hand techniques to break boards but I have never managed to break a board by punching.

There are a variety of reasons this could be happening. I know that one of them is that I don’t use enough speed but I may also be pulling my punch a little (I don’t think I am afraid of hurting my hand but perhaps I am, subconsciously.) And I may not be coordinating my movements effectively.

Luckily, I have lots of help to work on this and six weeks is enough time to figure out what’s going wrong and how to fix it.

Focus and Perseverance

Test preparation is not the only thing on my agenda for the next few weeks but I have lots of time and (mental) space to dedicate to the project.

I’m not sure how often I will check in about it because it’s hard for me to figure out which milestones will make sense to other people but you can be sure that I am going to be mentioning some details as I go along.

And I will definitely be asking for good wishes on my post right before my test.

I am focused and I will persevere.

KI-YA!

ADHD · goals · martial arts · planning

Christine’s TKD Pattern Check-In: That Didn’t Go As Planned (But It Turned Out OK)

So, it turns out that I can’t really learn a new pattern in 5 minute sessions because my brain does NOT like it.

I can do 5 minute practices of a pattern that I already know or I can practice one specific technique for 5 minutes but my brain refuses to believe that 5 minutes of learning a new pattern will add up to me being able to do it. 

I have it a good try for the first 10 days of my plan, though.

I would practice a few moves one day and really feel like I was getting it. But, by the next afternoon, it was like I had wiped my mind clear of the previous movements entirely. It was taking me almost the whole five minutes to remind myself of what I had been doing the day before and it was so awkward and frustrating that I was getting really discouraged.

a GIF of a ​light brown dog slowly shaking its head back and forth. It has a resigned expression on its face and the caption beneath says ‘Really?’
This pup knows my frustration. Image description: a GIF of a light brown dog slowly shaking its head back and forth. Its mouth is curled into a resigned expression and the caption beneath says ‘Really?’

I know, of course, that learning takes time and that I have to be patient with myself and with the process.

BUT, on the other hand, I know what I am like and I know what my brain is like. And, I know that that specific kind of frustration can lead to me unconsciously putting something aside for later – and not a specific time later but that murky ambiguous time that I refer to as the ‘the not-now.’*

Change in Plans

In order to protect my pattern practice from falling into the not-now, I had to course-correct.

I changed my daily practices to focus on patterns I already knew, cycling through them one at a time. 

As for learning Yoo-Sin, here’s what happened:

Luckily, we went back to having classes in person so I had the chance to work with Ms. Reid and Mr. Dyer a couple of times. That really helped. It’s great to have two very different people to work with – they both help me to understand different parts of the movements and understand how to bring the pieces together.

A GIF made by animating the images from a Simplicity brand pant suit sewing pattern so that the figures on the front dance.
This is not the kind of pattern I was working on at all but this GIF makes me laugh every time I see if. Image description: A GIF made from the the sample image on a Simplicity brand sewing pattern. A woman in a black yellow, plaid bell-bottom pant suit dances from side to side in the foreground while a woman in a black bell-bottom pant suit nods her head to the same beat in the background.

And, at home, I dedicated longer periods of time to learning my new pattern so I had time to get into more of the movements in each practice.

I started by writing out the 68 movements in my own words so I could reference them more easily. I’m sure official instructions will never include phrases like  “X punch down, X knives up, then sneaky punch” but I make it work. 

Then I broke the movements into sections that made sense to me – separating sections when I had to change directions or when a set of similar movements were completed and another set was starting.  

I worked on the first section until the movements had a bit of flow to them and then moved to the next section, adding a little bit at a time. This is what I was hoping to do with my 5 minute practices but 5 minutes wasn’t long enough to make things stick.

I could feel that I was starting to grasp my pattern** but I couldn’t always bring my knowledge with me to class. It always takes a while before my home practice shows up at class with me but at least my brain was more willing to focus on the details of the in-class practice because the movements were at least vaguely familiar. That let me retain more information about the details of the pattern because I had a mental ‘container’ to put them in.

Let’s Call It A Success

I’m going to call my February plan a success even though I had to change it part way through. (Hmm, does it count as changing it if part of the plan was that I could change it if I wanted? Ha! )

Trying to work for 5 minutes a day wasn’t a direct path to learning my pattern but it did set me on the right path. Realizing that 5 minutes a day wasn’t going to work led me to find something that would and now I am doing pretty well with my pattern overall.

I’m pretty confident with the first 50 of the 68 movements and I am feeling ok about the last 18. And I’d be feeling more confident about that last 18 if I could magically face the right direction for each movement instead of having to remind myself each time.

A determined-looking cheerleader in a huge hairbow holding pompoms.
Given her determined expression, I can only assume she is personally cheering me on. Image description: a cheerleader in a huge hair bow and a black and red jersey that says ‘Beauties’ is holding a black and white pompom slightly behind her while she holds a red and white pompom toward the camera. She has a determined look on her face and she is standing in a field with a tree and parked cars in the background.

When I started this plan for practice I wasn’t sure if I *could* learn my pattern in a month but apparently, the answer is yes – as long as I was working with my inclinations instead of against them. 

I think I just coached myself into a corner with that last bit, hey? 😉

*Long before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I would tell people that, for me, time only came in two forms ‘now’ and ‘not-now’ and if I put something into the not-now it might never resurface. It took me years to find out that dividing time like that is common among people with ADHD. I don’t know how many people use the definite article though – ‘the not-now’ has a certain gravitas to it that works for me.

** I have a very specific feeling when I know a pattern is starting to come together. It’s not exactly visual but it is the mental equivalent of watching film develop or watching something move toward you through fog – I can ‘see’ it there, recognize its shape, even if I can’t quite identify/describe it yet.

goals · habits · martial arts

Christine H is trying to (TKD) practice what she preaches

If all goes well, I’m hoping to test for my 4th degree black belt in ITF Taekwon-Do sometime later this year but I have a lot of work to do in order to be fully prepared.

All through the fall, my practice was restricted because I was having trouble with my leg and my foot but things are improving and I have been able to resume my regular home practice.

I’m fairly confident about the patterns I have learned for previous black belt tests.* And I feel good about one of the three I need to learn for this test but I haven’t yet fully grasped the second pattern that I need to learn.

So, I am taking my own advice from my Go Team! posts and creating a plan for a small, specific practice to really get this pattern, Yoo Sin, into my brain and into my muscle memory:

I’m going to practice Yoo Sin for at least 5 minutes a day, every day, from now until the end of February, or until I can perform it without hesitation, whichever comes first.

This is what Yoo Sin looks like:

A YouTube video of Patricia Pacero performing the ITF Takekwon-Do pattern Yoo Sin in a practice space with white walls and with blue mats on the floor. She is wearing a white TKD uniform (dobok) and her black belt.

I have been through the whole pattern step-by-step a couple of times with guided instruction but at this point I can only get about 1/3 of the way through the pattern without stopping to check the next move.

I’m not sure if 5 minutes of daily practice will get me where I want to go with the pattern in a month but it will definitely move me in the right direction.

And, as I know from my own Go Team! pep talks, I can reassess and do some course correction at any point in the process.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

For the record, this isn’t the only TKD practice I will do in February, it’s just how I plan to add this pattern to my repertoire.

*If you aren’t familiar with how things work in the martial arts, getting your black belt is not your end point, it’s the point at which you know enough of the basics to start deepening and strengthening your practice. I earned my first degree black belt in 2014. I learned 3 new patterns for my second degree belt in 2016, another 3 new patterns for my third degree belt in 2019, and I have to learn 3 new patterns for my 4th degree test. This is on top of the 9 patterns that I learned for the various belts leading to my first degree black belt.

fitness · martial arts

Christine Wants To Up Her Mental Game. Any Recommendations?

I’m about a year or so away from my 4th degree black belt test in ITF TKD.

I feel good about my ability to sharpen my skills to testable levels but I really want to do some serious work on my mental game.

I want to be as confident as a possibly can when I go into that test next year.

Part of that confidence will come naturally as I practice and study in preparation for the test.

But I want to do some specific mental practice, too.

I want to be more comfortable with the intensity of preparation. I want to be less stressed in the days preceding the the test. And I want to improve my ability to visualize my actions during the test itself.

GIF of Actor Kristen Bell saying ‘Own It’
A GIF of actor Kristen Bell moving her fist to her chest and saying ‘Own It’ with an air of confidence.

To that end, I have been watching some videos and reading articles* to figure out what practices and techniques might work for me.

One thing I’ve noticed (of course) is that a lot of the sports psychology videos I’ve found are by male athletes and coaches. Their advice has been interesting and some of it has been valuable but I would like to have a broader perspective on the subject.

Can you recommend any videos or books about sports psychology/mental game/visualization that are more gender-diverse?

*And I am attending a TKD Sports Psychology online seminar in a few weeks.

fitness · martial arts · training

Christine H says: TKD Training in my basement? I’ll take it!

This time last week, I was practicing Taekwondo with over 1000 other people in my rec room.

Okay, so they weren’t all actually in my rec room, that would be terribly irresponsible. And crowded!

I was actually taking part in the very first International Taekwon-do Federation’s Online Technical Seminar and we were all grinning at each other through our screens.

Normally, TKD seminars and courses (which are a required part of our training) take place in person and we get to learn new things from Grand Masters and Masters who have a specialized expertise in one aspect of TKD or another. 

A promotional poster for the first online technical seminar for the ITF. It features 5 male Grand Masters standing in ascending height order on the right side of the image, they are all wearing white doboks and black belts.  There is text on the upper left indicating the name of the seminar and the date and time.  The ITF logo (five coloured bars arranged in the shape of a fist and text reading itf International Taekwon-Do Federation) is in the lower right.
Promotional image for the seminar this past weekend. Photo source: itftkd.sport

Before we started, I was very apprehensive about how well it could work online. 

How were the instructors going to demonstrate and explain movements over a screen? 

How could a group of 1000 people be anything but overwhelming, even online? 

How well would I be able to focus in long Zoom sessions? Would I be able to take in the information in that format? 

It turns out that seminars work pretty well online. 

Sure, there were a few technical issues and there were struggles with internet speed (my extremely slow internet actually jammed up completely during the patterns I most wanted to hear about) but overall, it was a very smooth event and I got a lot out of it. 

A large grey/green tortoise walks between large rocks.
This tortoise’s stroll is a remarkably accurate of my internet speed. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was great to see so many other TKD students from all over the world checking in for the seminar. I really enjoyed experiencing so many different teaching styles from the various Grand Masters. And it was really valuable to see how the people demonstrating the patterns were working so hard to get things right, and even if they made mistakes they either corrected themselves or accepted correction with grace. 

It was really exciting to be part of such a huge group participating in the same sport and I was inspired by the skill of the Grand Masters, as well as the Masters and other black belts who were demonstrating the patterns.

It wasn’t the same as being there in person, of course, you just can’t generate the same energy through a screen. I missed being able to chat with my TKD friends between sessions and or being able to get some hands-on assistance from someone nearby if I didn’t process an instruction properly. 

However, this online version was a good substitute overall.

I liked being able to see and hear specific details so clearly and I liked how much easier it was to take notes during an online seminar. (In person, you are going back and forth between listening to instructions and trying new things and you can’t keep running back to your bag with your notebook. You have to wait to take your notes between sessions and I always forget!)

It was great to have relative privacy to make mistakes without feeling self-conscious. No one could tell if I messed something up completely so I wasn’t distracted by feeling foolish. (Yes, I know it is okay to make mistakes, I know that’s how you learn. However, I’m still self-conscious about it. I’m working on it!)

The author, a white woman in her late forties with light brown hair, stands next to an outdoor wall. She is wearing a white dobok and red-framed glasses and she is smirking slightly and she looks a bit tired.
I had to send in a photo with my registration and it took me so many shots to get one where I wasn’t outright smirking that it isn’t even funny. This process ALSO made me self-conscious!

I enjoyed knowing that the instructors and the people demonstrating the patterns were all over the world – it really added to the experience. I don’t know if we would have had such a variety of instructors/demonstrators for an in-person seminar, that would take a lot of logistical work.

I love how much more accessible online seminars can be for the average person – minimal expense, no travel costs/challenges, no need to take a lot of time off of work. 

I really hope that online instruction is regularly offered even after the immediate threat of Covid-19 has passed. I would still like to attend in-person seminars but I would definitely round them out with online courses. 

Meanwhile, I will be taking as many of these types of courses/classes/seminars as I can in the next few months. Next up is a class offered by the ITF Women’s Committee in January. 

I can’t wait!

KIYA!