Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Belt

I have another MT test coming in a few weeks. We are spending the bulk of our classes reviewing the information we learned in the past 5 months, and perfecting some flows for the test. I predict I will do well on this one.

Tests in general are not a part of traditional Muay Thai. The traditional path was that you earn your Thai Shorts, and that is it. After that, you are what you are - either good or not at MT. But us westerners adapt and change things to suit our needs.

I have been in many discussions over the years about the pro's and con's of testing in MT. For a guy like me who will never get into the squared circle, it is probably the closest thing I will ever have to a fight. After showing our instructors all of our techniques and the flow for who knows how many rounds, we spar and do some more conditioning to show that we are in shape. Our tests really are exhausting.

I used to worry about them a lot more than I do now. But the fact of the matter is that if you have been to classes on a regular basis, you will pass the test. If you suck in the test the instructor will usually call you out, but I have never seen anyone fail. Typically, they do not let you test unless they feel you can succeed.

Sounds convoluted, but that is the way my gym works. It is universally known that we have the best MT instructors in the area at my gym, so I play by their rules. Testing is a good way to keep people focused and to keep your curriculum organized. On the other hand, there really is no such thing as rank or testing in MT. So there you have it. Problem UNsolved.

I have to admit I like advancing on the "color chart" of sashes at the gym and you get an interesting unsaid bit of respect from the beginners when you show up and strap on that sash that indicates that you have been around for a while. It hasn't changed me or my attitude a bit though. I try to be especially nice and helpful to the newbies, as I know that they are the revenue stream for my gym (so are tests - $50 each person) and I simply don't know what I would do if the gym closed. This is very UNlike how I was treated by the advanced guys when I started out 2.5 years ago. They would routinely beat me up and treated me like shit. But screw them, most (all?) of those guys are long gone and I am improving since I spend so much time in the gym. I would wager that if all of those guys showed up today I would put some kind of beating on them if we sparred. Don't get me wrong, there are some guys that have been at the gym who have been there longer than myself who have always been great. But most of them had their own little cliques and wouldn't be bothered by a beginner just trying to learn basics. I feel it is the duty of the advanced people to teach and help.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Receiving my black sash in another 3-4 years will be a big event for me. By that time, I will be the third or fourth in the gym to have that distinction. Speaking of black sashes and belts, I noticed this story today from South Korea. Yep, The One gets a TKD black belt to go along with his Nobel Peace Prize.

Nice. I would think it is disrespectful to even begin to think of accepting an award like this to all of the other guys who have been practicing TKD for many years, and don't have their black belts yet. I will note that the Prez has his right hand down - that stance (and TKD in general, imho) is so seventies. But I digress.

Hopefully this is some sort of honorary black belt. Many people take sashes and belts very seriously and train very hard to achieve those goals. It isn't that big of a deal for me to move up the color scale, but it does show progression at my gym. Accepting a black belt (if real) by our President is akin to me kicking the golf ball out of the woods for relief when not allowed. Sure your score is lower on your golf scorecard, but you know in your head that you did not earn that par, birdie, or whatever. Obama may be the holder of a black belt, but in the end he knows as much about martial arts as I do about being the President - which is to say, nothing.


knirirr said...

That's an interesting post.
I agree about the duty of the advanced students, and welcoming behaviour towards new recruits is something I always try to encourage.

Annie said...

"...as I do about being the President - which is to say, nothing."

So basically, by current standards, you're qualified.
You got my vote.

Dan from Madison said...

Heh, Write me in next time Annie, I would appreciate it.

Carl from Chicago said...

Hey Annie haven't seen you commenting here for a while. How are you doing?

Annie said...

Frequent reader, slacker commenter. :D
I'm doing good. Just been busy with lots of training stuff. Black Friday while all the masses are converging on the big box stores in search of deals, I'll be practicing draw/shoot from being seat-belted in a vehicle. Then off to train in "hallways" and shooting from around doors and under windows. Tons of fun, and keeps me out of trouble. :p

Dan from Madison said...

Awesome Annie, that training sounds sweet.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan - I've been training hard in London, UK for over a year now. Really enjoy your posts. There is some pressure at the gym to do an exhibition fight. I'm tempted, but am reluctant due to my family responsibilities (wife + 2 young kids). How do you resist, as I imagine you must feel similar draw to step in the ring? Rob

Dan from Madison said...

Hi Rob, glad you commented. BOY you have a GREAT MT scene in England. I regularly watch the matches here: http://p4tv.com/

Very good stuff.

That said, it is VERY tough for me not to get into the squared circle. I am told over and over that I could kick ass in the ring and I believe it from my sparring. Here is the rub. I simply cannot, at this stage of my life, risk a broken nose or worse, fractured rib or skull at this point in my life. I am 40 with a great job, great family and my primary responsibility is to them.

So I have taken my padholding to another level. At my gym we developed an actual curriculum for pad holders and I have passed two levels in that, and am now the best padholder in the gym - I would think maybe in the whole state of Wisco. I spend a LOT of time training fighters and they fight for me. I call it fighting by proxy. Since I am an assistant coach I have been cornering our fighters (including our pros) so that is a real thrill.

I guess the short answer is that it really does kill me, but sparring is the closest I will ever get to a fight so I will enjoy that for now. I don't even do head shots in sparring - all body boxing and kicking or just tap the head with a punch or kick.

I had a few close calls with beginners - I have been kneed and elbowed in the snout and it ain't pretty.

Drop me an email if you want to talk more - as you can see, I am more than a little enthused about MT - johnstone185 at gmail dot com. Best, Dan.