Was awarded the third black stripe on my Senior Green taekwondo belt last night. By the big kahuna himself, no less.
In our program, there is a phenomenon among higher belts jokingly referred to as "hiding from the tape." This is done by people who are either happy at their current belt level or (more commonly) either with physical issues or lacking enough time for the practice required to do a good job of moving higher. The instructors use electrical tape to apply the stripes to our belts that indicate where we are on our journey through the skills required to advance to the next belt, so when you are "hiding from the tape" it means that you are not in a hurry to acquire more stripes. The further into the program I get, the more I understand this phenomenon.
My current belt rank is in the middle of the spectrum. I'm nowhere near black-belt level, but high enough in rank that there are certain expectations for overall fitness and capability. Even with the bum knee, which means that there are some things I'm just not going to be able to do as well as others, no matter what, I've hit the point at which I either need to start taking those fitness obligations more seriously or just chuck the whole endeavor. Arguably, I should have come to that realization a belt ago, if not before. It's not that I am hideously out of shape, because I'm not. But I am carrying weight that I shouldn't be, weight that will eventually cause more knee problems if I don't get rid of it, especially with the more complicated kicks and jumps and spins that come with higher rank. I am also, and equally importantly, going to have to make a concerted effort to improve my overall strength and flexibility too. Both have come a long way in the last year and a half, but if I am going to really commit to being serious about this sport, I'll have to commit to regular out-of-class stretching and exercise as well. The rubber has officially met the road...this is just not an enterprise in which one can dabble.
I was thinking about this at the end of the week before Easter break, when I was awarded the second stripe. Typically the first two stripes take the longest to earn, and the remaining five to seven (depending on your belt level) come more quickly. Usually you test for your next belt within a few months of getting your second stripe. The technique sheet for my next belt up has some serious shit on it...right now, I'm not sure I can even do some of the kicks in particular. That second stripe was a real wake-up call.
So, when I went to class last night, my first since receiving the second stripe due to the break, and came out of it with the third stripe, it was not so much the proud moment it should have been...more like one of panic! Crap on a cracker...time to get real. Starting now.