May 292013

Dvh3 with Master Jung after his first belt test.

Dvh3 with Master Jung after his first belt test.

My son and I started taking Taekwondo together about six months ago. During this time, he has learned that there is a lot more to martial arts than kicking and punching. He has learned that it is about focus, discipline, confidence, and today: family. A week ago, he was working to receive his green stripe which is basically approval from the Master to proceed with belt testing for rank advancement. He didn’t make it the first time, nor the second. He choked back tears and the Master said to him, “Why are you crying that you didn’t make it, instead of congratulating those that did?” I worked with Devon nearly everyday at home until, on the third attempt, he received his green stripe. It really meant something to him. He had legitimately earned it. It wasn’t just a participation award.

Over the last couple of months, the Master has been encouraging higher ranking students and those with their green stripes to help the rest of the class. He forces students to stand up to him. If they aren’t trying their best, he will tell them they can give up, “It’s OK”. Those that have learned will stand where they are and shout “No Sir!”, “I can do it, Sir!”. They are building their confidence, and it’s wonderful to see.

Today was the second to last chance for green stripe testing. Five students in a class of 18 had not yet received their stripe. Four of those students received their stripes, but during the final skill test, one young boy lost his confidence, missed a step, and failed. The Master sent him back to wait while the other student finished his test. Like my son the week before, he choked up and tried to hold back the tears. The Master explained that if he cried, he was giving up, he could go home. It was OK. He tried to stay strong, but he was quickly losing the battle. The Master asked another student what he should do. “He should ask to try again, Sir!” “Yes.” “Can I… try… again… sur…” “Not while you’re crying, stop crying and ask me again.” This went on for a bit. It was awkward. The other students, myself included, looked at the ground, feeling badly for him.

Out of the blue, the small hand of a seven-year-old boy went up in the air. “Me Sir!”. “What?”. “Can I practice with him, Sir?”. Silence. The Master accepted my son’s offer to help him try again. The look in the Master’s face was one of surprise, approval, and pride. Tears welled up in my eyes. He tried, but he was demure. His shouts were grunts. He failed again. This time, instead of listening to a lecture from the Master, another student offered to help. Then another. I finally raised my hand, following my son’s lead, and gave a small bit of advice for him to remember to be confident, to shout loud, and make each move count. He tried again. He stood tall. He shouted with confidence. He passed. The class clapped furiously. The Master was proud, the lesson learned. I wiped my eyes.

I have been proud of my son on many, many occasions. Today, he surprised me with a courage, confidence, and compassion that I found truly remarkable. For a seven-year-old boy to look up and assert himself in support of another student to an intimidatingly powerful authority figure is an incredible thing. Today is the proudest day of my life to date. Congratulations son. You did what 16 other students, most your senior in both age and rank, should have done. Your father was among them. You set the example.