Yellow Belt Test

Last night, Spencer tested for his yellow belt. If you had talked to him in the days and hours leading up to the test, you would have heard aaaalll about it. He. Was. Ready. Until we got there, that is. Now, we have made great progress in class in general, but that deserves a whole other post...

Last night, you never would have known that we had moved beyond those days of kicking, screaming, and crying on the edge of the mat while sitting in Mama's lap. Last night, it was an encore performance. He ran in, ready to test, saw all the other kids on the mat, and freaked out. And by freaked out... I mean crying, trying to climb up in my shirt, and saying "I wanna go home... I need cuddles!" On one hand, you feel bad for him... but on the other hand, it's infuriating. If he's going to act like that at testing, the least he could do is allow us a disclosure to everyone watching that he's all about taekwondo when not in the dojang!

During "The Big Meltdown"... The instructor did his best to get him on the mat, the Master laughed and said, "I knew this was going to happen," and the Grand Master picked him up and sat with him in a quiet spot and talked to him about how it was really scary because he's never done it before... but that it was going to be ok. He just had to pretend it was just the two of them in the room. Doug and I kept exchanging glances... not sure if this was going to happen or not.

Ultimately, the instructor placed a spot on the mat for Spencer, and one right next to it for me. During the warm up, Instructor M came over and stood in front of Spencer to give him someone to focus on... and I was able to sneak away.

And just like that, Taekwondo Spencer was back... and completely in the zone!

{"Two Sir!"}

Spencer performed really well during testing. The focus has been to "be calm" and "do your best." While he was not necessarily calm... he did do his best. After warm up, they squished all the students towards the rear of the mat to allow for the front of the mat to act as the testing area. The first group was the children who were testing for higher level belts (red, brown, and black). It was good for Spencer to get to see how it would work prior to having to be up there himself. (And I'm sure that is in part why they do it.)

The Little Tigers was the next group up. Spencer was only one of two white belts who were testing in this round, and the only one from his class. He was also the youngest and the smallest (by a lot!), which resulted in him unintentionally being a crowd favorite. (I'm sure the meltdown that several people witnessed had something to do with it as well.) He did the group exercises well, with the exception of forgetting to stop when he reached pose three, as he went up to pose six with the others. His individual recital of the poses went well, and his defense maneuver was executed perfectly. The highlight of his test came when it was time for breaking stances. Spencer's breaking stance is hammer fist. Now, during classes they have been practicing this stance using tape on the hands of the instructors, and foam blocks. Instructor M has always told S, you can break boards when you get your yellow belt. Clearly neither he or I interpreted it as "You break boards when you TEST for your yellow belt," since both of our eyes grew wide when the Master kneeled down in front of the group with a stack of boards. When it was Spencer's turn, he walked up to the Master, and I heard Master whisper, "Just like in class... ok?!" They did a practice run through on the Master's hand... and then the board came out. I wasn't in the best spot to see the action, but I could hear Spencer say "Yes Sir!" when asked if he was ready to try a real board. I could see him lining up his strike. "Eye".... "Focus".... "HIYA!" and nothing. The board didn't break. The Master whispered something to him, I saw a little nod of Spencer's head, and he lined up his strike again. "Eye"... "Focus"... "HIIIIYYYAAA!!!" And the board snapped. (And the crowd cheered... No, really!) And Spencer, literally didn't know what to do with himself. He ran out into the group of kids to show someone his boards, and had to be directed back into his spot. He stood in his spot for  a while, just hugging his boards and looking at them. I'm pretty sure he couldn't believe what had just happened! I really wish I knew what the Instructors and Masters were thinking when that happened, because it's one of the few times that he's so openly displayed his love for the sport there. After a few moments, he saw where I was in the room, and held up his boards, pointing to them and mouthing, "I broke a board!!!" It. Was. Adorable. After that, they just had to answer a few questions for the Grand Master... regarding behavior and improvements. Spencer's focused on not crying. Ironic, huh?! {wink} He was also asked if he was glad that he tested ("Yes Sir!"), asked if he liked breaking the board ("Yes Sir!") and told "It wasn't so bad, right?!" ("Yes Sir!")

{Eye!}

{Focus!}

{HiYa!} {Trust me, the board is broken}

{"Look Mama, I broke a board!"}

Then they sat and watched the rest of the students go. This was perhaps the hardest part for Spencer. He was still clearly on a board-breaking high... so it was harder than ever for Mr. Ants Pants to sit still and watch. Soon enough though, it was Demo Team time. I'm positive nothing could beat getting to actually break a board... but this was a close second for Spencer. It's no secret that he is totally enamored with the Demo Team... it's a choreographed Taekwondo performance to hip-hop music. It's by invitation only, and something all the staff knows he's interested in. Truly, it's Spencer's dream of dance fused with Taekwondo moves. (Don't tell anyone, but we watch the team's practice video on Y*uT*be a LOT.) It's also no secret that his driving motivation for testing was to get one belt closer to Demo Team qualifications. (I'll go into more detail on this in another Taekwondo post.) The Demo Team performed... and you could see Spencer smile in anticipation of certain things... like the "gunshots" ... and when his favorite song comes up... and when Master Y breaks a board waaaayyy up high, with a spinning kick (The whole dojang heard Spencer exclaim "HOLY MOLY!")... and of course, when Darth Vader makes an appearance and "uses the force."  Mr. Ants Pants didn't move a MUSCLE the whole time they were on the mat. (For what it's worth, I did. I caught a "wild broken board" that was on a line drive for me during the demonstration, earning a high five from the Grand Master who was clearly not expecting my cat-like reflexes. Clearly, he needs to spend a day alone with Spencer.) Spencer was completely, and utterly absorbed. In fact, he didn't even move when they were told to find their spots! One of the moms closest to him had to prod him onto the mat... It was as though he couldn't believe it was over.

Spencer quickly got with the program when one of the girls told him that they were about to get their new belts! The Grand Master gave a little speech (I think) and then all the students were told to turn around and take off their belts. They then were lined up in class order, holding their arms out, with their current belts draped over them, and the new belts lying at their feet. The Grand Master then went around and tied the student's old belts around their wrists, while the Master followed and tied the new belts in place. I'm pretty sure Spencer was glowing at this point. He was clearly very proud. Doug and I had snuck up front to take photos, so he didn't see us, and kept looking towards our seats. Then when he spied us on the side, he broke out into a huge grin and pointed to his waist.

There was a brief closing statement... and then everyone gathered for a group picture before being told "Enjoy your Friday Night!" Before we left, Master Y took a moment to sit and talk with Spencer about what he thought of the night, and they made a deal that there would be no more crying next time. Let's see if that holds! Instructor M also took a few moments with Spencer to congratulate him and tell him he did a good job. I really do think that they were both as relieved as we were to see Spencer pull it together and test so well after the theatrics earlier. (Instructor M tells us that everyone does it... even he did it. But he was nine. That gave us a much needed giggle.) It seemed as though it was important to both of them to touch base with Spencer before we left, as both of them made their way over immediately... proof that something special is happening within the confines of the dojang.

{Not a great shot...but proof that Spencer was into the cheering too!}

The highlight for Spencer was receiving a note of encouragement from Master Y on one of his broken boards. Spencer has already found a place of distinction for it in his room:

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that Spencer has won them over. And see, it really is no secret that he covets a spot on the demo team!