So, at 49 years young after 35 years of doing Taekwondo it was about time I took my 5th Dan grading. I applied to grade with the PUMA organisation which is an excellent organisation mainly based in t
he South West of England but has clubs all over the country. Mr. Harper, our own grading examiner is with PUMA and he helped me with my application when applying to grade. I had to write an essay about "My heroes and why they inspire me". I also had to attend a pre-grading in Swindon on the 1st July 2017. This was a must pass session in order to progress to the proper grading in September. I had to perform all coloured belt patterns and do a kicking combination (Front leg side kick, Reverse Turning kick, Reverse hook kick into side kick then Turning kick). We had to repeat this until told to stop. I also had to answer questions about Taekwondo and the pattern meanings. The pre-grading was quite short but intense and I found the results a few days later - I passed.
On the day of the actual grading Saturday 23rd September 2017, I had to arrive for 12.30pm when my group would be on. I arrived at about 10.30am so that I could stretch and warm up properly. I was joined by Ollie from the Gravesend club who was in the group before mine. When we were eventually called in, Ollie's group was still in the grading hall doing their questions. The grading panel consisted of 2 eighth dans, 2 seventh dans and a sixth Dan.
It started with patterns, Dan-Gun, Do-San, Won-Hyo, Joong-Gun, Toi-Gye and a choice pattern, I chose Kwang-Gae as I have been doing that pattern a lot with my black belt students and it is fresh in my mind. I then had to do the patterns for my grade, Yong-gae, Ul-ji and then by myself Moon-Moo. I managed to remember all of the moves and I was well warmed up so my kicks were good. I put plenty of power into all my moves and I was pretty exhausted after the last pattern.
Next was the kicking drill, same as in the pre-grading over and over until we were told to stop, I struggled a bit with my fitness here as I had put lots of effort into my patterns and had had the least amount of recovery time. I managed to get through it and recover a bit of my breath back. We were partnered up for one step free sparring where we have to immediately react to an overhand reverse punch. I had no partner to start with so I was able to recover some more which was very welcome.
I had two rounds with two different opponents of this exercise which went very well. We were told to move out and put our sparring equipment on. I had two rounds of sparring where I successfully landed a few light contact kicks and punches on both opponents. I was quite happy with my sparring although I think I could have put a bit more variety in.
After the sparring we were given another short break and were asked to approach the table and the examiners asked questions about ourselves and our relationship with Taekwondo and how it has affected our lives. I was asked some excellent questions that I was very happy to answer and was quite pleased not to be asked technical questions about Taekwondo as this is not my forte.
After the questions we were dismissed and taken to another room for breaking. I was the last to do the breaks, I had to attempt five breaker boards with any techniques. 2 boards were red or black (harder) and 3 boards white. My first board (red) I used a back leg side kick and successfully managed to break it. 2nd board (white) I used a palm heel strike and broke through it. 3rd board (red) I broke it with a reverse side kick. 2 white boards left, last person to break, last break of the session, I put the 2 boards together for a flying side kick. I ran up, jumped, aimed, combed my hair (not really, tyger joke). I kicked the boards with everything I had, everyone in the room was focused on these two white boards.
The boards exploded into their parts after my foot had gone through them, I landed with a triumphant grin and bow to the instructor and helpers. I had managed to break all 5 boards. Boy was I happy.
We filed out again and were told we have a 20 minute wait until the spirit test which was out on the field and is a physical fitness test for all grading candidates to see how you react to being pushed to your physical fitness limit. We had a 40 minute fitness session with partners ( I was with Ollie again), we helped and encouraged each other through the gruelling fitness class in brilliant Swindon sunshine. We were cheered on by all the instructors, helpers, grading examiners, family friends and random strangers to keep going through the pain. The session finished not a moment too soon marking the end of our long day out.
A brilliant experience with some wonderful people in pursuit of another Dan grade to add to all the others. I could not think of a better way to spend my Saturday in late September.
Update: Tuesday 26th September 2017 RESULT: Mr. Harper informed me: I Passed.
At the presentation evening I found out that I had passed with a CREDIT.