My girls tested for higher belts in Taekwondo yesterday. Mina tested for her red belt and Maya tested for her second degree in black. It was nearly a four-hour long affair, unbegrudgingly though; even the littlest testers showed patience beyond their every-day capacities. During these tests, it's hard not to transform the experience into a huge metaphor for all things; a benchmark of their growth as people, an indication of how they will be able handle all things. My girls are amazing people and they are extremely clutch, man. Their abilities and poise seem instinctual.
Mina was focused and calm. She performed all her requirements before a big crowd of peers and parents and a panel of judges without the slightest sign of pressure. She broke a wood board with the single swipe of her round-house kick. When she missed a move of her form, she just did it again without a problem, even as the crowd felt tension for her. And she demonstrated super bad-ass technique such as this near-perfect jump back kick:
One of the greastest things about Mina in regards to Taekwondo is that she practices the sport with almost near autonomy from Maya's experience. They take classes together and we are, of course, a TKD family, but Mina doesn't idolize Maya as an athlete nor does she downplay Maya's accomplishments. Mina is supportive and praising, but her involvement does not hinge on Maya's. It's impressive. It's another example of her independent and strong mind.
Here's Mina putting on her head gear for her sparring portion of the test. I love this angle even though I can never get a clear picture of it. I always take this shot, don't I? It is the moment before battle; the butterflies, the questioning of oneself: Am I prepared? What am I made of? It is always an electric moment.
This was a big test for Maya. A second degree is not only an honor, obviously, but it is a clear indication of commitment to the practice. Earning a black belt is a lofty and praiseworthy goal. Going beyond that is sheer dedication. Age twelve, I'm told, is a hurdle year for kids in TKD, especially girls. We have wondered about Maya, even loosened the reins as far as the decision for her future participation. There have been times when she hasn't known herself and I feel she has to feel her own way through right now. For the first part of her second-degree test, she had to deliver a speech. This is standard for black-belt testers and any level beyond that. I told her to make her speech heartfelt and honest. She put a lot of thought into it and when she got in front of everyone she told the crowd that after the Junior Olympics she didn't know if she wanted to continue the sport. She told them that since she has rediscovered a love for it. She said she doesn't know what she'd do without TKD in her life. She loved feeling confident that she could defend herself, that she knows how strong and fit she is. She ended the speech by saying it is an honor to test and that she hopes she's an inspiration to the others. I think the answer to that is most certainly yes.
Maya also had to demonstrate two different forms, show her knowledge of moves and self defense, and kick the heavy bag three hundred times quickly and without stopping. Mina had to kick this bag a hundred and twenty times. This is way harder than it looks. Your fitness level has to be top notch! I thought one of the guys testing for his second degree, a fit guy in his forties, was going to pass out during certain parts of the test.
Taking down an attacker.
The hardest part of the test for Maya was having to spar three people at once. It was like watching her get jumped into a gang. It was rough and it was hard for Maya not to make light of it by at one point running to the other side of the mat, making the crowd laugh. BD, Sanne and two-year Baby R drove in from Vegas to watch the test. During the Jump In, Baby R was weepy and concerned for Maya. When the rumble was over, the room fell quiet. Baby R yelled out in severe toddler cuteness, "K, MA?" She can't completely say Maya so she calls her Ma. "K? MA?" Four or five times in a row, just yelling it out. Maya had to break concentration and say, "I'm good, Baby R. I'm fine."
Here she is recovering.
Baby R with Maya after the test. K, Ma?
Here's the panel of judges, a Brazilian contingient of bad-ass fighters and masters. Congratulations girls. You did exceptionally.