Tuesday, April 29, 2008

심사 끝났어요 (Test Finished)

8:15 Sunday morning I meet Samantha to walk over to the taekwondo gym for warm ups and running through the poomsae one last time. Noah, a university student, is already there and Kevin, a sixth grader I used to teach who is Samantha's student now, walks in right behind us. They are both testing for the third level--Noah for dan and Kevin for poom (the equivalent of black belt for children under age 14).

Samantha and I change. About a million worries are running through my head. I don't want to let Sa Beom Nim down. I didn't get enough sleep. I wish my family could see me. I don't want anyone to see me fail. I wonder what I'm going to do when my contract finishes in August...

I try to focus as the other boys arrive. Another uni student at Daegu Catholic who says he's majoring in English Education, but can't speak in English (Noah and I keep translating for him when he and Samantha try to speak--god I hope it was nerves) is testing for third dan also. Ian is there, Samantha's first grade student now nicknamed Moli Apa (머리 아파, meaning "Headache"), who is testing for first poom. Three little ones who I worked out with in January during intensives are testing for second poom.

Three studiomates, about to become second poom, with all their abundant energy.

Sa Beom Nim is all spiffed up for the occasion

During warm ups, I keep messing up my forms. My head is not in this. I need to focus, but I have a hard time doing so. I catch my focus by the end and land the eighth poomsae two or three times. I feel better. And the boys are making me laugh. In the van they ask Samantha and I hundreds of questions, some of which I understand and some I don't. I give them my American dollar to play with.

At the Elementary School, I'm overwhelmed. There are so many people testing. Most are young children testing for pooms. Samantha and I go into the auditorium for announcements. Noah and English run off to chat with friends they know from other studios. The boys take Samantha and I under their protection. We're the only foreigners there, so we need it--with all the shouting "Hi" "How are you?" "What's your name?" sometimes encouraged by their sabeomnims and kwangjangnims who, as adults, should really know better.

The adults testing for dan have to wait until all the children are finished. It's a long wait. Gwen and Samson arrive. I give them my camera. We see some students from Oedae with other studios. Samson talks to their parents and some of his taekwondo friends.

Finally, Noah and English get a text message from Sa Beom Nim telling us to go get in line, so they walk us over to the others waiting for first dan. Samantha and I are number 25 and 26, so we know we'll end up sparring each other, which is good because we've practiced together and know what we're doing. Samantha is especially relieved. Number 27 turns out to be an extremely nervous 20 year old college student majoring in Physical Education, but whose English was remarkably good. He carried on a long conversation, mostly with Samantha, and entirely in English. Apparently his focus is soccer, but he needs to do taekwondo too as part of his studies, so he really needs to pass.

There are also three women who help Samantha fix her dobok from 어머니 태권도, which means "Mother Taekwondo." Apparently it is a studio out near Palgongsan that caters primarily to housewives. These women were really kind and very sweet and tried to hook me up with their (rather hot) sabeomnim (thanks, ladies).

Anyhow... even after getting in line, the wait is really long.


In fact, when we get up to actually do the test, it doesn't even register in my brain until we have finished the second poomsae (there are two--8장 and a random form which for us turned out to be 2장) and are prepping for the spar. In some ways this is good, because I didn't overthink it, so I didn't make any major mistakes. But my head wasn't in it, I wasn't focus. I can look at the pictures Gwen took and see how my leg isn't straight enough or I'm looking a little off to the side. I just hope it's good enough, since I know I can do a lot better than I did.


It's all over so fast. It felt like less than two minutes, though it was more like five or ten.

Sa Beom Nim's friend from the ski trip, the one who called me an ajumma, came over right after to tell me how awful I did. Ha ha. I love that third grade boy humor where they tease you in a way that borders on cruel considering I was feeling really uncertain of how I did. But then he said we did well. And Gwen and Samson come down to congratulate us. And Sa Beom Nim said we did fine.

But officially we won't know for 15 days after the test. Waiting is hard and nerve-wracking. But I do feel like a pressure that was with me for the last few weeks has lifted. To see some more of the photos Gwen took from our test (and a few I snapped of my studio brothers), check out the album:

Taekwondo Black Belt Test (태권도 1단 심사)

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