No one understands why it is so important to me to get my black belt on December 9th, 2015. For the longest time, I felt like I didn’t have to justify it to the world. Well, that changed when a series of people kept telling me that it didn’t matter when I got my new belt. Hearing that hits me like a thousand daggers. The climb to black belt is not straight or flat by any means. To put things in perspective, sometimes I like to visualize my journey, all the victories (big and small), all the defeats, all the times I swore I hated taekwondo and I was never going to get the technique. (Spoiler Alert: I usually figure them out after hours, days, weeks, and months of practice.) As many times as taekwondo has shoved me down, it has also built me back up to be a stronger individual both physically and mentally.
Although the idea of doing a traditional form intended for an completely able-bodied person on two feet, a Sam dan bong (three-sectional-staff), a punch board break with no help from my lower body (harder than it sounds!), and somehow spar (not sure how that is going to work out honestly) while in a wheelchair is a series of daunting tasks. I spent eight months learning the whole form with all the jumps, kicks, and hand techniques combined. Now, I just the portions of the form in place and move the wheelchair with my feet that are not terribly comfortable. Overall, I want this to be a testing I can be proud of and never forget, as usual. Having both of my parents, there will make it unique as well.
Since I returned to taekwondo in January 2014, I have about 20 admissions, more procedures than I can count, various subluxated joints, and two surgeries. I have lost a lot of training time from doctor’s appointments, admissions, and recoveries from surgeries. I estimate four to five months.
Part of my desire to test with the rest of my classmates is that my parents will both be able to be in attendance. Because of life schedules, my parents haven’t been able to make very many appearances at testing. I actually can’t even remember the last time they were able to come together. For the first time, my aunt and uncle have also agreed to come, and I am hopeful my brother will too. I am also want to be able to support my taekwondo friends as they test for their new ranks. One will be testing for his 2nd Degree Black Belt Decided, one will be mid-terming at 2nd Degree, and another will also be testing for his 1st Degree Black Belt, as long with many other people testing for new belts.
From a psychological standpoint, I met the first doctor that seriously helped my RSD/CRPS on December 7, 2012. He gave me a new hope I needed. Over three years later, this upcoming hospital admission, I desperately need that same confidence going forward. I hope that makes sense, but nevertheless it is funny how life takes you full circle. I trust my instructors wholeheartedly, and I have no clue what they are thinking right now. Probably that I am nuts, but that is a typical response. Seven classes until that day, two stripes, a pre-test card, and two forms to refigure, I have probably lost my mind too, but I have to give it my best shot.
I don’t want to people to see me as limited by this and testing at a later time will be showing just that. As I am typing this, one of the brown belts just texted me and told me that he broke his finger during combat sparring last night. I asked him if he was still going to be able to do taekwondo. His response, “If you can, then I can.” I reminded him to follow doctor’s orders, but we will see what happens. Martial artists are a stubborn bunch, and no one denies it! I want my Karate Kids to see that you can do anything regardless of the circumstances.
“With every belt, there are millions of memories.” I spent four additional months at Brown belt, and wrapping up Red Belt will allow me to start making my memories as a 1st Degree Belt. My color belt obstacles will be gone, but the lessons and life skills they have taught me will never be forgotten.