The First Competition

I really, really need to do a background/in-depth post on what's been going on at the dojang... for now, let's just go with the blanket statement : "It's been a lot of ups and downs. Mostly downs." A month ago... it took him not one, not two... but THREE tries to actually test for his next belt. He simply didn't want to do it. He knew his stuff... but just did. not. want. to. test. It was slightly infuriating. So, imagine what my initial thoughts were when they told me that they wanted to send him to the state competition that was held yesterday. I may have laughed out loud at them. It took some significant convincing... but we finally agreed. With the understanding that it was on them to make this happen. The last two weeks have been HARD. There has been a lot of class time, a lot of practice at home, and a lot of discussion about the spirit of competition. This past week was exceptionally brutal. Extra classes, videos uploaded for us to rehearse with here, and a lot of protests from a certain four-year-old. Not about all the TKD time, but about the competition. As of Friday night, he wasn't going, he didn't want to be a team player, and he still didn't know his material as well as he had to. Saturday was even worse. Worse attitude, worse form, worse everything. I may have said to Doug, "I think we're bringing the rodeo clown to the competition." We were very, very nervous.

Now here's the thing. All we wanted him to do was go, have a good time, and do his best. The only thing we didn't want to happen was for him to cry and run off the mats. As the Masters said again and again and again... it was about the experience. He was the youngest student that they have sent to competition. They expected him to freeze, they knew he probably wouldn't do well. But they did everything in their power to make it the best experience for him. They got in touch with his favorite instructor who is currently away at college, and got him to agree to coach. They had two of his favorite (older) students there competing. They drilled it into him that it was about meeting lots of new people and cheering for your friends. They made us know that the only thing they wanted is for us to see how it all worked, to take it all in. The only disappointment they would have is if any of us left afterwards feeling badly.

And then Spencer went and won Gold.

I'm still in shock.

The moment he walked into the competition, a switch flipped. I have no idea what happened. He walked in, and for the first time ever, was a team player. He greeted all the parents formally. He greeted the instructors happily. He warmed up with his fellow students. When he saw his Master, he ran over and said "Hello Sir! I'm going to do my best and win you a medal!" (To which the Master responded, "I just want you to have fun!") He was patient while waiting in the holding area, then he walked out to the mat in an appropriate manner. And most importantly, he was respectful when the other students were competing and he was waiting his turn. (It should be noted that I was a wreck and was shaking with nerves.)

After what felt like an eternity, and mere seconds, all at once... it was Spencer's turn. He was competing in Poomsae, otherwise known as forms. His curriculum is the Taeguk Yi Jang which consists of 18 movements. He went up on the mat... No tears. I started to breathe a little easier. He was focused on the head referee/judge and in ready position. When the judge told them to begin, he went into the zone, and did the whole routine. There was one moment where he "checked back" to his Master on the sidelines, and a couple of pauses where he thought for a moment... but no mistakes. His form and movement was absolutely solid. He even remembered certain little details that he hadn't mastered as of the day before. After finishing, he turned around, and you could see he was proud of himself. It was incredible to watch. On the sidelines, Doug saw the Master do a "YES!" fist pump. The judges declared him the winner of that round unanimously and instantaneously. That meant he had to go up against another competitor to determine his final rank. At this point, I think his Master, Doug, and I were all feeling like we "won" for the day. The Master looked over and caught my eye and we both just raised our eyebrows and shook our heads. I knew he was blown away too. Friday had been the hardest day ever, and I think both of us were expecting several mistakes... not his best performance to date. I think all three of us were grinning like fools. And all of us were very, very relieved.

Spencer delivered an even stronger performance the second time. He. Nailed. It. And he knew it. It was amazing to see that... He was literally radiating pride.

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The rest of the day is kind of a blur. He ran off the mat to show us his medal. Then his next order of business was finding his favorite instructor (the one who came from college) to show him. And, of course, he wanted to show his medal to his other TKD friends. There are other little stories that make the day special for him... but the front page news was that he did it. And he took first place in the process. He blew away every expectation that we had set. Both out loud and in our minds. Everyone at the dojang is just as ecstatic and excited as we are. One of them called me last night to tell me so. They couldn't stop laughing and smiling and talking about it. And we are so happy about their joy. It was their time, effort, and patience that made this happen. While Doug and I did what we could... and Spencer most definitely "brought it"... yesterday was really only made possible because of their faith and persistence with him. There has been a lot of sweat and tears the past few months, but man... yesterday certainly eases the pain a little. The Master refuses to take credit for what he's done here... but we certainly hope he's proud of the accomplishment. He should be!

And here's just a few photos from the day...

{The Team}


 {Pep Talk}

{Last Minute Instructions}

{I wish I knew what was going on here...}

 {Ready for Round One...}


{Ready for Round Two}


{I wish I knew what the judge was saying here...}

{Doug snapped this photo... I think it says it all!}


{Opening Ceremony}