• Coloured Belts' Year In Review

    Each student had a maximum of two gradings this year. With twenty students, it would have been easy to run several tests, like most clubs do, however Phoenix is not a club concerned with trophies or trophy belts. So when we do have a grading, it's honestly fantastic. When I say “fantastic”, I mean that there is only one grading from any other club that I've seen in 14 years of martial arts training that compares to every belt test we've had. 

    Now that you've read that sentence, you may start to see why I find it difficult to write about our tests.

    Our winter testing was astonishing. People who had only trained for a few months after having been out for over a year, yet worked hard enough in class to earn the right to test, showing why they earned that right. White belts busting out spinning backfists that “no one has ever taught” them (still trying to wrap my head around that incredible moment). More importantly, shy children gaining confidence. Smaller children showing strength. The two students grading to go to up to Asst. Black Belt successfully performing the most difficult board break in our system on the first try, making it look easy. Most importantly, everyone doing work and showing that they believe in themselves. Those traits, combined with unparalleled work ethic during every class, combined for a special night of gradings, the perfect lead-in to Christmas. 

    The year ended with gradings on back-to-back Thursday nights. The black belts tested on June 8th and the coloured belts tested on June 15th.

    The coloured belt grading took place on June 15th, and featured well over half of the club, who had put in the work for months and months, waiting for this moment. One of our students, Hunter deserves special recognition as he broke his wrist at the park the night before and still wanted to test with no special exceptions for his test. That is some serious heart, and when he does test this fall, he will earn his new belt. 

    The test went non-stop for well over two hours, opening with everyone showing their fundamentals. The higher the belt, the higher the level of kicking we saw, as the years have unveiled greater skills.

    One of the great things about covering multiple disciplines is the change-of-pace that you see during gradings. Powerful, crisp Taekwondo poomsae (patterns) which demonstrate the strength that can be shown defending oneself in a fight, intertwined with the beautiful, gentle power that is Breathing Law, from the always graceful stylings of Kung Fu, is always a sight to behold. 

    Seeing real life attacks stopped by self-defenses that work in real situations, and seeing the individuality brought to the defenses by the students is incredibly rewarding. If we never go to a single tournament, knowing that my students can protect themselves in the real world is all the goal medals I'll ever need.

    Everyone sparred at least twice, with Max drawing the show-me straw and sparring four times.  

    It was a special night for Max, as he was grading to move up to Assistant Black Belt (hence all the sparring). It's not a shiny test like earlier ones can be. This is a difficult test for an adult, a very gritty test that you survive more than anything else. So to ask a 12 year old to do it – there are no short cuts, it is either earned or it isn't, and it reveals whether or not you have what it takes to start a very important part of your journey. 

    There are certain higher-level skills that can be used both in martial arts and in life that our students are taught, and Max put them on full display on this evening. When things went well, he kept calm. When things were challenging, he kept calm. The mental balance he displayed, the discipline, was that of a trained adult, and it led him to a great test, where he showed everyone on the floor with him that night what will be expected of them in the future. 

    The bar has been set very high.