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A few other thoughts about my black belt test

December 4, 2006

I promise not to go on and on about it, but there’s still a few things to say about having passed my black belt test on Sunday. Bear with me.

First of all, more than one person said: “I thought you already had a black belt.” Well, I did! Before I joined J. K. Lee I was a student at another tae kwon do school. I had been there for almost four years and had attained the rank of cho dan bo – “cho dan” meaning first-degree black belt and “bo” meaning “probationary.” What I just tested for on Sunday was my permanent first-degree black belt, my cho dan. That’s where you get a name on your belt with a gold bar representing your rank.

Going from probationary to permanent black belt is a big deal, but in my case it was an even bigger deal. One of the main things you do in this test is to demonstrate your competence and familiarity with the school’s entire curriculum, an amount of stuff it normally takes a person three-plus years to learn. But because I came from another school there were huge parts of the J. K. Lee curriculum that were totally unknown to me. I only made up my mind to dig in and make a concerted effort to learn all that stuff in the last three months.

Which brings me to another point: the transition from one school to another was hard. And on top of that, my personal life was very stressful over that year, too. I felt a little bit like a visitor to J. K. Lee, like I didn’t quite belong. That’s hard way to feel for a solid year. Several times I thought of quitting. But now that I made up my mind to learn what I needed to learn and get my cho dan, I feel so much better. In a way, I feel like I just now joined the school.

Here’s something else that needs saying: thank you. I want to thank all the instructors at J. K Lee that I have worked with, and all the senior students who have helped me. I couldn’t have survived the past year – or passed my test – without you. You befriended me. You taught me. You called when I didn’t show up for class. You encouraged me. Thank you. (I also want to thank someone I don’t know: Master Miller, who called me out during my test and asked me to repeat something that I apparently hadn’t done to her liking. It was a tense moment as I struggled to do as I was asked. But it reassures me, too. It reminds me that J. K. Lee isn’t just giving these belts away; you really have to earn them. And believe me, shall not show my face around master Miller again without knowing the difference between hwa-rang and choong-moo!)

Finally, I’m reminded of something grand master Lee said to me a few months ago:

Now that you have a black belt, you are just beginning. You understand? It is not the end, it is the beginning.

And now that I have my permanent black belt, that’s just how it feels.

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  1. Mazel Tov! (Now how’s THAT for multicultural!)


  2. Congratulatons on your Cho Dan! It is quite an accomplishment and honor.

    I know how much effort they take to earn – I’m up to brown, and ever since I started, I always see what the higher belts do, and think, “I’ll never be able to that”, but as I move up with each belt, I amaze myself. When I was a white belt, it was purple that I thought was impossible, at gold, it was green, and now here I am a brown belt. I’ve been to a few of the black belt testings, and it’s impressive to watch, and a little intimidating to think I’ll be doing that in a year and a half. You will continue to work hard to move up in rank over the years won’t you? You won’t stop now right?

    I know what it is like to feel like a visitor in your class. When I joined, my husband and son were both higher belts that myself, and they were “in”, and here I was, a new comer, but all the students at JK Lee really have a way of making you feel like you belong.

    Anyways, sorry about the book, and again, CONGRATULATIONS! It’s something to be proud of!


  3. Thanks so much! Stop? No, I don’t feel a bit like stopping. I think maybe I’ll see how it is when I’m reach e dan!


  4. To Jamie:

    Another saying of Grand Master Lee:

    “A Black Belt is a white belt that never quit” Go for it.


  5. Congrats, Scott! Sounds like things are going pretty well over there. Myself being someone who has been stuck at cho dan bo seemingly forever, it’s encouraging to see that the move worked out for you. Best of luck, dude.


  6. Man, I haven’t seen you in ages! Note to self: invite Chris to dinner.


  7. Yeah, I’m moved over to New Berlin at present, but the phone number’s still the same. Ironically, I have to run to TKD at the moment, but hopefully I’ll catch you later!



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