That's Middle presenting it to me - a nice tradition at our school.
It was an exciting morning, and I thought the test went well for all of us.
But when I think about earning my black belt, I don't think about the test itself.
I think about the last year of my red / red stripe training. Showing up at the dojang early, leaving late, taking classes six days a week. Seeking out the extra help and open practice sessions, pushing myself as hard as I could in class, in cardio, in sparring. Being at sparring every Friday, plus fighting drills on Mondays with Kickboxing Guy (before my usual hour of cardio, and then the extra-challenging Monday night class). Crunches and leg lifts. Fighting and grappling before or after class with the younger guys. Nursing the bruises, the tight hip, the sore muscles, the injured fingers and toes. Winter mornings at the Y, stretching, running, lifting, drilling forms and taekwondo actions in front of the mirrors. Burpees, burpees, burpees. Weekends with the guru, accepting his often harsh criticism and pummelings, hearing him tell me that "good enough never is" and taking that mantra with me into another week of striving to "be better." Videotaping myself and wincing to see a floating hand, a sloppy chamber, a shallow stance, or my eyes not looking where they should be. Doing the same action or form over and over in slow motion trying to fix the bad habits, the floppy arms, the wobbly posture. Holding myself in a deep horse-stance until my legs were shaking. Boxing and getting punched in the face whenever I dropped my guard. Working longstick forms in the yard. Forcing myself to do all the jumps. Drilling the fighting techniques and hapkido, insisting that my partner not give me anything unless I do it right. Throwing and being thrown. Asking the stronger men to practice random grabs with me until I could escape without stopping to think. Reading books, watching YouTube videos and sharing long conversations with peers and mentors about martial arts philosophy and technique. Cleaning, painting, and helping out where I could at the dojang and with the Demo and Competition teams.
Struggling to find balance with my husband and family while I do all this. Failing at that and sleeping on the couch. A lot.
This was a hard-won piece of cloth.
I will wear it with both pride and humility, knowing what I put myself through to get here.
It was never about the test.