Kuk Sool Won of Peoria Spring Testing

Lessons Learned from a Failed Test

Maybe this is bad business. I’m a huge believer in transparency though, and there are lessons here. As difficult at this is to admit to my students and readers, I failed my last Blackbelt Test.

It’s happened before. Actually, nearly every time I test with my instructor, Pyung Kwan Jang Nim (PKJN) Ben Mitchell, I have the distinct feeling that I’m back in high school and have studied the wrong chapters for the big test. My focus recently has been on improving my memory and mobility. I’m actually in much better shape than at the beginning of the year. You wouldn’t know that had you seen me test though.

Last weekend’s test was entirely devoted to endurance, something I haven’t worked on extensively since last summer, and it showed. I quickly got to the point where I couldn’t breathe. Not that I was out of breath, but I couldn’t breathe. I decided to stop testing. I was worried about injuring myself (or someone else) and having to pay medical bills or lay off training.

So, I quit testing and (after getting my breath back) took notes on my phone. PKJN Ben ran through lots of kicking combinations. Unlike other instructors that I’ve had, he is very athletic and pushes his students hard. Almost everyone from the old Kuk Sool Won of Galesburg lineage is athletic and very focused on the kicking aspect of Kuk Sool Won™. I missed this in my early training and am having to catch up.

I had time while watching and taking notes to reflect on my participation in Kuk Sool Won™. I drove for almost five hours to test and decided to stop after less than a half hour, only to get in the car and drive back home. What kind of idiot does that?

Obviously, that wasn’t my plan. It’s just the way that things worked out. I do love training and firmly believe that I’m involved in the best martial art association in the world. I will keep training and keep testing as long as I can. It’s about the journey, not the arrival.

We talk in Kuk Sool a lot about having a “Never Give Up Attitude”. At first, I was very concerned that by stopping testing I was giving up. On reflection, I’m sure that I didn’t. I was taking care of myself. I knew that I was not up to the pace that PKJN Ben was asking for.

This Monday, I start over again. I’m still focusing on memory and mobility, (getting my joints to a place where I can train proper stances), and strength training (specifically pull-ups). I know now that I need to be just as serious about training for endurance. Kuk Sool Won™, like a gem, has many facets. Each reflect differently and are seen at different times. I have been reminded of that.

“Never Give Up” doesn’t mean that you never fail. It means that you can’t be beaten. I will continue training until I can pass PKJN’s tests easily. And I’ll keep training after that. As I get closer to being fifty years old, my intention is to continue becoming healthier, fitter, and a better person. I might fall down once in a while, but I won’t give up.





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