Black Belt Testing!

The morning of Black Belt Testing I slept in. That was my promise to myself. If it had been a movie, the heroine would have risen before the dawn to meditate as the sun dramatically rose behind her and she would have resolutely moved into this auspicious day. However, it was just me, and I slept in. And then I got a massage, which was lovely.

I made it to the studio around 1, and got to work on the music for the whole test. Technology was not cooperating much that day, though, so music was late, and then the slideshow took forever during the actual test, too. What can you do? At least they both worked, eventually.

At 3 we (the candidates) did a run through of testing so we'd all be on the same page and look like we knew what we were doing (which we did...most of the time...). We got kicked out so they could let the masses in to get seated. There were quite a number of people who came to watch. My fan crowd (bless them) consisted of my parents, my Grady, my roommates, my birthdad & co, and my friend Sam. And all the studio peeps who were there anyway, of course. I am grateful to have so many loving supporters!

We (the candidates) came in at a run. We bowed in, then we did dive rolls and kick combos across the mats, which was fun. Then it was the dead space while we tried to get the slide show to work (grr...Microsoft...) and then it was the slideshow and the introduction of the candidates, and then the introduction of all the masters, of whom there were quite a number.

Forms came first, individual and then group forms. I started with my bo staff form, which we kinda screwed up but not too bad. Bo staff is fun. I am loving the Weapons class, and I can't wait to learn more and start competing. Next was individual forms, and I was a little upset. They had me do Po Eun with the 3rd degree candidates, and the way the other school does this form is very different than the way I was taught, and so I was more focused on staying together than on performing my form. Dumb. But whatever. Lastly were the group forms. Now, we'd never done group forms before, but after seeing Shiba's, our Master Sorenson decided we should do them to. So Cory, Cole, Parker and I put together this version of Pahl Jang:

The Shiba group form was pretty awesome too. They did Oh Jang, but they turned out all the lights and did it in the dark--with glowsticks on their necks, arms and legs. They had an incredible cohesiveness, staying together a lot better than we did. I hope I can find a good video of theirs, I really enjoyed it.

After group forms, we launched into BREAKING. This is always an engaging part of testings. Each of the 1st degree candidates were required to break 10 boards. They had to have 1 speed break, which is a board held with only one hand, and a power break, which is multiple boards at once. The rest of their boards they got to pick the techniques for, but they had to use both kicks and hand techniques. Each candidate had 5 minutes to set up and break all their boards. Some had a harder time than others, and some were more engaging to watch than others. Parker's was particularly cool--he chose challenging techniques, including kicking an apple off a sword and doing a flying side kick over 10 people. Pretty cool stuff.

My breaking series was a little different. At our school, when you test for your 2nd degree, the breaking series is a surprise. So where the other candidates were able to pick their techniques and set them up, mine were set up and picked for me. I was taken from the room, it was set up, and then I came out and was told what to do, on the spot. The only thing I knew for sure was coming was the brick-break with my palm. It was fun! I made mistakes, and the last kick was particularly annoying, but here it is:

Last but not least were the self defense demos. These demonstrations were supposed to display our collective knowledge of self defense techniques. In particular, I was asked to display throws, 2-on-1 defense, as well as gun and knife disarments. Cole, Parker and I worked for about three months to put this together, and we rocked the house. Again, we made mistakes which you will see, but overall it was a good performance:

Following the demos, we all shook hands with all the masters and were welcomed to the black belt ranks. Then there were lots of hugs to dispense. That evening we reconvened at Magleby's for a banquet. At the banquet, the candidates all gave thank you speeches and gave out cards and roses and such. Then we were awarded our belts and gifts. The Shiba students all got new black belt uniforms. At our school, the 1st degrees get a graduation ring, which I already have. As a second degree, I received a sword--a beautiful red katana that I'd had my eye on for two days. Then came the awards.

There were 6 awards. The awards were Outstanding Kicks, Outstanding Forms, Outstanding Breaking, Outstanding Self Defense Demo, Outstanding Overall, and the Martial Arts Spirit Award, which the candidates themselves vote for in advance. Each award comes with a sword! Outstanding Kicks went to Laura Guymon, this little blonde girl from my school who has BEAUTIFUL technique. Flawless. Then came Outstanding Forms...which was me. I was surprised, because there are a LOT of good forms in this group. But honored. Outstanding Breaking went to Sydney Shiba, who made no mistakes, broke all her boards on the first try, and did it the fastest of everybody. Outstanding Self Defense Demo went to...Cole, Parker and I. We were thrilled...but to be honest, not very surprised. :P Parker received the Outstanding Overall, which was a new award that they created simply because he was so awesome and they had to celebrate it! From Shiba, Brigette DiVito received the Martial Arts Spirit award, and from Beyond Sports, it went to Cole, which pleased me greatly and surprised me little. It kind of makes me laugh now that I think about it--Cole, Parker and I each received 2 awards. Obviously we swept the house, we compadres.

Testing was an incredible experience, and I am so grateful to all the people who supported me these past months and years as I have worked toward this achievement. Now, it's back to the studio--a little less crazy, but no less fun now that I've earned my 2nd degree!


It doesn't seem like there's a whole lot going on in my life, but then I look around and realize my life is insane. Hard to reconcile.

Today I went skiing with my dad. We went to the Canyons, which is one of our favorites. There's just a lot more to ski at the Canyons. There's a lot more terrain that's within my skill level. It snowed lightly pretty much all day, but it wasn't terribly cold. It was kind of foggy, which actually was cool. The snow was icy in places and pretty thin all over, but overall it was still a fun day skiing. I love to go with my dad. It's one of the few things that he and I do together. I mean, my brother usually goes too, but he's on a mission, so his loss. ;) But we just talk and ski and chill and it's good times!

This week is the final countdown to Phase II of black belt testing, which is this Saturday. There's still a lot to do in preparation. I'm actually really excited for this phase. The first portion went a lot better than I expected, and the most exciting parts are yet to come. We'll be doing a lot of PERFORMING--forms, dive rolls, our own kick combinations, group forms (which are new to me! kind of an adventure!!) and other presentation stuff. We'll also be performing our self defense demos, which have been the biggest portion of my preparation. And breaking, where I will break an as-yet-unknown number of boards and bricks in less than 2 minutes. Woot! At any rate, I'm looking forward to this final wrap-up event.

Tonight I am chilling at Grady's house eating swedish fish and blogging, because that's what I was in the mood to do. =) Tomorrow, it's back to the grind. So, good night friends.


A Tribute to my Best Friend, the soon-to-be Missionary

Melissa and I met in Juniper Hall, our freshman dorm at Southern Utah University. We both lived in the Honors Hall. Very few of the people in the Honors Hall pursued Honors, but I'm grateful that they all lived there that first year...particularly the woman who would become my best friend.

We lived together (or close by) throughout the rest of college. We lived in one nice apartment the third year, but all the others were pretty ghetto. But Melissa made them homes. She decorated, she cleaned, she cooked, she sang, she lived. She was an incredible roommate and an even better friend. I am grateful that our friendship has stubbornly persisted post-college into these years where we have lived an hour or more away from each other. Melissa is the one person for whom I will sacrifice and talk for greater lengths than 5 minutes on the phone. I can't help it. Our conversations are a life-line.

I love Melissa for more reasons than I can count. The top of the list is her loving acceptance of people, of me. I have always been able to talk to Melissa about anything, and that's a quality I don't have with other people. Melissa is an incredible listener, and she enjoys helping other people sort through their personal trials. She is dedicated, she is loyal, she is spiritual, she is kind, she is generous, she is outgoing and friendly and wonderful.

Next Wednesday, Melissa will be leaving for 18 months to serve as a missionary-representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will be serving in Ohio. I will be able to write her letters (as I have promised to do!), but I will not lie, dear reader, that I face the prospect of 18 months without her bearing nothing more cheerful than determination in my heart. I have to make it through this time because she is off doing a good thing that I support wholeheartedly. But I will sorely miss her presence.

God bless, my dear wonderful friend.


Final countdown

We are on the final countdown to black belt testing. Even though I know I am prepared (as prepared as anyone CAN be for this) it is still a nervewracking thing to face.

This Saturday, the 9th, is Phase 1. We will be tested for 5 hours--which is as much a test of our endurance as anything. We will have an hour and a half of solid kicking. This is killer. A sparring match typically lasts 3-6 minutes, and by the end of that match, I promise that you'll be tired, if not exhausted. And we'll be kicking for an hour and half. There will be solitary kicks as well as combinations that have to be performed with fluidity as well as speed, accuracy and power.

We'll also be doing all the forms we know--these are set patterns of techniques, including blocks, strikes, kicks, etc. We have to remember the patterns precisely, and perform them with accuracy, sharpness, and power. The kids testing for their 1st degrees have 10 forms. I have 15. This is actually the portion I have the most confidence in.

The biggest clincher of the day are our self defense demos. These are 15 minute demonstrations of all the self defense we have learned during our journey to black belt. I am in a team of three, and we have been working for several months on this demo. It takes a LOT of energy to perform. We do blocks and strikes, joint manipulation, throws--Judo, Hapkido, Ju-Jitso--and since I'm testing for my second degree, I also have to show two-on-one defenses and knife and gun disarments. The demo is a lot of fun, but it is a TON of work.

In two weeks on the 23rd, we have Phase II. This portion is shorter, only 2 hours, and open to visitors to come watch. We will perform the best of our performances--kicking, forms, self defense--from Phase 1. I will add my staff fighting form (whacking people with a stick!). We will also add BREAKING. This is when I will break BRICKS with my HAND.

And at the end of it all? IF we survive and perform to par, we will be awarded our new degrees at the banquet that evening. That, my friends...that will be triumph. Just gotta get there!


2009 in review

I guess I wrote these posts a little backwards, but it's okay. Here is a year in review at Descent of the Muse.

In January, I wrote a lot and put on a Roadshow with my singles ward. Also, I started volunteering with LDS Family Services.

In February, I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, started thinking about buying a house, and actually started looking at houses, which was weird.

In March, my novel made the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. And Melissa and I went on a road trip to SEATTLE, which was a blast.

In April, I bought a guitar...which I then did not learn to play. I started back at Taekwondo after a 2.5 year absence. Also, I started my adoption blog.

In May, I moved to my apartment in Lindon. My friend Dixy got married, and we went on our annual camping trip to Red Cliffs.

In June, I went to New York City with my parents, which was amazing.

In July, I was exceptionally busy preparing for the national conference of Families Supporting Adoption.

In August, I started teaching classes at Taekwondo, and it started really kicking my butt into gear. I also met and started dating Grady.

In September, I turned 23. I decided to apply to the MSW program at the University of Utah, and started working on applications.

In October, I fought in a tournament (first time since 2006). I went to Pennsylvania and was the keynote speaker at an adoption conference there.

In November, I broke boards for fun. I participated (and won!) in the National Novel Writing Month. And I gave thanks.

In December, I went to lots of parties. I was the keynote speaker at TEDxSUU in Cedar City. And I started my awesome new job at Taekwondo!

All told, it was a pretty good year. And we can only hope that 2010 will only be better!