Zach, my first-born, recently tested for his Second Degree Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do before a panel of judges ranging from Fourth to Sixth Degree Black Belts with World Champions notched on several of their belts of achievements to boot. Intimidating, to say the least!
This test was a retake, as Zach did NOT pass this same test in August of 2009, when I passed my own First Degree Black Belt test. It was a bitter-sweet day.
I would never have made it to Black Belt without my Love's help
His training since August was focused and dedicated enabling him to sail through three and four boards at a time. He honed skills, he grew a few inches, and his confidence soared. As a result, this re-test was going smoothly. He looked sharp, relaxed (on the right),
and even playful as he and his brother, Hudson, demonstrated techniques.
Until, ERRRR! All came crashing to a halt (in my mind) at board breaking time. As Zach stood before the judges to discuss his weight class, they determined that he would, in fact, have to break “FIVE”–let’s count ‘em, one, two, three, four, FIVE 1x10x12 inch boards! Somewhere in the translation and the raising of standards in the last seven months, it was overlooked that the requirement to advance to Second Degree Black Belt was to break five boards. His choice was to attempt the break or train another six months to test. He had never attempted such a feat! He would be given five attempts. He took the challenge.
With each board breaking attempt, my heart sank lower and lower and the Mama Bear within was becoming un”bear”able. She was, in fact, raging. As I was outwardly cheering for my son, I was inwardly thinking, “How could this happen?” I reasoned: “He’s been training so hard and has improved. Does that not mean anything!” “It’s going to all be thrown away because of a misunderstanding on the amount of board breaks!” And on and on my raging went, while I smiled and cheered for my son.
Attempted break no. 1
Attempted break no. 2
Attempted break no. 3
After three attempts, he was required to sit out and rest his foot. As he was digging deep within trying to find that strength to break FIVE boards, I paced, I prayed, continued to rage within, and I formulated my words of protest.
Again, the judges called Zach to the head table to discuss his remaining two break attempts. No one knew what they said, except that Zach walked away with a goofy grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. It wasn’t until later that Zach told of how they encouraged him with words of confidence, hope, and courage–the very thing that causes him to thrive and succeed in life.
But I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t take the below pictures, as above. A kind fellow-mom did, knowing the agony I was in. I was beginning to glare at the judges’ table, not caring, in the moment, what rank they were and my place as a lower rank and the respect required of me. I was mentally loading my guns to unleash the Mama Bear within and it was looking ugly!
Attempted break no. 4
The sad music began playing in my ear while I formulated words to console my son, as I did seven months earlier, and then immediately unleash Mama Bear’s wrath on the judges. But Zach looked at the judges’ table (I wish I’d gotten a picture) with a huge smile on his face, a gleam in his eye, and he broke the FIVE boards on the Fifth and FINAL attempt.
Sheer joy and elation followed. The spectators erupted in shouts of cheers and clapping. He jumped, screamed, and hugged his instructor and his dad. I was too dumbfounded, face on the floor thanking God, to get a picture. My son had beat the odds literally stacked against him and showed true “indomitable spirit” (a tenet of TaeKwon-do which means to never give up, even when the odds are so stacked against you that you will likely not succeed).
The Judges called Zach back to the head table where they commended him for the indomitable spirit displayed for all fellow students and spectators to see.
The Mama Bear was tamed within by a young man’s indomitable spirit and proof that he could now fight his own battles.
A special thanks to Zach's instructor, Mr. Webre, and his dad, Michael, for encouraging, disciplining, and training him these last five years.