I am very proud of the fact that on June 19, 2005, approximately 3 years after beginning my journey in taekwon-do, I was awarded my 1st Dan Black Belt by Sabum Spiro Cariotis. I have trained at least 3 times a week for all but the first month or so of my training, and I trained almost daily in the 6 months leading up to my grading so it was a big commitment in terms of time and energy. The blackbelt was certainly a motivating goal to keep training, but it has not been the endpoint in itself - I have continued to train 3 times a week since my grading and am still as passionate and as enthusiastic about taekwon-do as when I started. I suspect that I haven't updated my blog until now because I needed the evidence (for myself and maybe for others) that it would indeed be the case that I would keep training with a passion. My blackbelt as an achievement in isolation is actually meaningless since in physical terms I am only just beginning to feel comfortable with moving and thinking as a "martial artist". I am fully aware that to think in terms of expertise takes at least 10 years, so I am still in the early years of that journey. What I am convinced of is that it is possible to learn new physical pursuits at any age in life so long as you are prepared to put in the work and I still have a lot of work to do !!
I really enjoyed the grading itself - I was surprised at how smoothly the day went for me. My patterns were quite passable and although I was initially intimidated by the idea of grading alongside two girls who perform patterns with exquisite grace and skill, on the day I felt reasonably comfortable and confident and on reviewing the video afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I also surprised myself with how comfortable I felt with fundamental movements, step sparring and self defence under the pressure of grading. Sparring was physically taxing but I was pretty confident of my fitness level and my ability to survive if not to star. The most challenging part of the grading for me was always going to be the board-breaks - I have trained for them since whitebelt level, but I am small and technique and timing are not my strong points so I have always been concerned about what might happen on the day itself. You can't fake board breaks. As it turned out, I was very focussed and completed all the breaks asked of me. I was pretty stoked by the fact that I did a flying sidekick over 4 people (it was originally going to be over 2 people given my size and age :-)) - unfortunately my designated cameraman was so enthralled in watching us that he forgot to turn on the camera to preserve my effort for prosterity ... so there is no photographic evidence of my feat !!
So I am now a black belt in taekwon-do and I'm proud of it, but it is only the first step in a longer journey to be comfortable calling myself a martial artist.