The picture below is of the ends of my current Green belt. Each of the stripes (applied with colored electrical tape, dated and initialed by the instructor who awarded it) has a particular significance. The black stripes are for techniques, self-defenses and forms respectively--two of each, given in that order. Then the blue one is for board-breaking, the green one for sparring, and the red one indicates that I was tested on all my belt-level material in class and found qualified to test for the next belt up. Getting a red stripe is a big deal, because it represents the culmination of a TON of effort and learning.
And as it happens, we have three red-striped belts in the family right now, which is especially cool. The Girl is too junior to attend the evening graduation, but she will test for her White belt (the first 'big-kid' belt) in her regular class the first week of February. Thing One will test for his Green belt on Tuesday night, which will be the first time I've participated in the test/graduation ceremony at the same time as one of my kids. They call the parent and child up to receive their new belts together at the end of the ceremony, which is a nice touch. (Thing Two is also in the program, but he's not ready to test this month.)
For all belts below Green, only the black and red stripes are required, so the blue and green stripes were new to me this time around. The board breaking requirement actually wasn't that hard--it was amazing to me how the pine boards flew into pieces when struck properly. Made me feel like a ninja in a big way!
The sparring, on the other hand, is tough and draining. Especially for those without innate skill at it, like yours truly. For starters, serious gear is required:
This is my headgear and one each of my shin, foot and hand protectors, plus my pink (of course!) mouthguard. Something girly has to balance out all that badass black. I should hasten to add that the point of the gear is to keep yourself from getting hurt by a stray kick or punch...the goal of our sparring is to get the technique down and learn to land strikes where you want to put them, not to actually try to fight your opponent full-on. The first time I ever tried sparring, I was a White belt. My opponent was a Black belt, which absolutely scared me to death! In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to me...the higher the belt, the more able the opponent, meaning that she had the skill to keep from hurting me (and keep me from hurting her) as I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing. Yesterday, I had to spar two higher belts in quick succession with only 30 seconds' rest in between...I earned that &%#$% green stripe!
At any rate, I now have all nine stripes, so I have a few more days to practice and then the big public test. Wish me luck!!