I’ve been studying Taekwondo for approximately 3 years now – would be four but I dropped out for a year due to travel issues. When I started I was (by one of the teachers own admissions) one of the least coordinated people they’d ever had through the door. I couldn’t wrap my head around patterns, I was kicked up and down the gym in sparring, my step sparring is hilarious, and my memory for korean is about as good as it was for french, which is to say non-existent.
Despite this, I kept it up, and I’ve managed to carve a place for myself in the class. I even once won a trophy for Most Persistent student at the Awards Night. There will never come a time where I am the best in the class, but I can at least get through things adequately.
Right up until last year, when I graded to Blue tag. When you hit Green belt, an additional exercise is added to your regime. The Boards.
Ever seen martial artists breaking pieces of wood with their hands and feet? Same principle. A plastic board (colour coded for our convenience) is placed in this harness machine…thing, and we try to break it. Green belts need to break 1 white board. Blue tags have to break 2 white boards at the same time.
Early 2011, I started practicing with boards in preparation for my grading. I manage to break with my right leg once, but get knocked out by illness and miss the grading. By the time I’m recovered and at the next exam, I haven’t broken a board in months – and as such only scrape through the grading by the skin of my teeth. Now, after a year of pretty awful Taekwondo attendance, I’m getting back on the horse, and preparing for the next grading…and the dreaded Boards.
Worse part about them? Its not something we practice in class very often. You kind of have to come in and do them during Open Training to get better. So this Sunday, I spent an hour attacking a white board with my left leg (right leg sadly, still a little out of commission due to a pulled muscle).
I didn’t break it. Not even once.
Made even worse by a recently graded student who was also working on them for the first time. He not only broke the white board, but moved up to 2…then a black board. By the time I left he’d gotten into competition with a black belt to see who could break the most boards with their hands.
It’s stupid, and I’m well aware its stupid. Said student happens to be one of the most talented in class – a lot of things come naturally to him, and the things that don’t he puts some hard work into. But the sheer ease with which he broke the Boards just depressed me. I’ve spent an hour before Christmas breaking boards, and now an hour after…and there’s no change in my skill. The idea that I might spent the next couple of weeks bashing white boards without breaking a single one (and then getting stuck with the muscle memory) is depressing. And I refuse to grade until I have caught up – that means 2 boards with a side kick, and with a back kick.
…Yet right now I can’t even break one. That just sucks.