Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Black belt training is... well... it's something

If I could accurately capture the sound of my aching muscles in text, that would be the title of this post. Something like, 'aaaaaaagggggcchchchchchchaaa!' every time I try to walk. This is black belt training, it would seem, and it is hard. There is never a time that some muscle in my body isn't aching. At the moment I'm walking like I've got a peg leg.

Master Donnelley, far left, instructs
a group of kids before the seminar
My peg leg situation is the combined result of a seminar on Sunday and my regular Monday class, both of which happened to involve a lot of kicking. The Sunday seminar was really interesting. It was taught by Master Paul Donnelley, 8th degree black belt (9th is the highest possible), and though it was short, it was intense. Apparently it was nowhere near as intense as his classes used to be - physically demanding and rigorously disciplined. Now in his 70s, Master Donnelley is still quicker on his feet than any of the younger of us were. It's amazing to me how physical skills can get sharper and more refined through life - age is no barrier.

My fancy Taekwondo Association
of Great Britain dobok
Besides a couple of classes per week while I'm in Birmingham, the rest of my current training regime is independent - three runs a week (for a total of 15km), skipping 1200 times, 50 push-ups, etc. No one is watching over my shoulder to make sure I do it. I have to keep a weekly journal of what I'm doing, but it would be easy to lie, saying that I'm doing things that I'm not. Even on days when this is extremely tempting, when I would really rather not go for a run (which is every day I'm supposed to go for a run), I do the work instead.

Look at that forced pre-run
smile -at least it's sunny
for once in Brum!
I know that if I don't do the work, no one but me will suffer. If I didn't do all the things I am supposed to do, and didn't lie about it, then I would get my butt kicked in class with crazy hard work-outs when my Master (Veronica Desantos, also known affectionately as Kwon Jan Nim, or KJN) saw that I hadn't done it. If I don't do the work but pretend that I have, and then make it evident that I was lying when I really don't have the endurance to do the same things during our black belt grading - also known as power weekend - I will also get my butt kicked. I'm going to get my butt kicked anyway, on power weekend, and that's the final reason for doing all this training: if I don't do it, I'll have no one to blame but myself for having the most hellacious experience in grading. I have no idea what happens during the weekend because it's all veiled in ritual, but I get the impression that it starts on Friday night, allows little sleep, involves being pushed to one's physical and mental limits and being made to do a wholly unethical number of burpees, and that it finishes with an eight o'clock 5km run on Sunday morning. Power weekend is not a joke.

If I can run 5km now, three times a week, without stopping, crying, or hyperventilating, then maybe - just maybe - I will be able to run 5km on the boardwalk with no sleep, an aching body, and a murderous desire for coffee.

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