Second Degree, 15 Years Old

I’ve never been the best at ending things. I’ve never been the best wordsmith, I’ve never been the fastest runner, or the smartest scholar. But all of this melts away when I walk into the dojang. In here, everything that I am not fades away, and all that matters are the people that I am practicing with. I feel like the person I am in here is someone who I really want to be. When I tested in June last year, I had no idea what becoming a Black Belt would entail. Sure, I knew that I would learn my new forms, and I really viewed it it as just another belt. Having kept up my practice after receiving my first degree has shown me that it is so much more. This is about how I have changed from that testing. I have become a better martial artist, I have given more to the community and I have made so many new goals in all areas of my life. This belt is a passport to change and it has helped me increase my personal standards in all walks of life. It has started to show what I can accomplish.

When I tested for my first degree black belt, I had no idea what kind of martial artist I could be. At that last testing, I talked about how the testing I felt the proudest after was my first testing, white belt to white-yellow belt. I now think that this is because it showed me that this practice I had been thrown into could really lead somewhere for me, and now, I think I have reached that first somewhere. Working to be the best that I could be is a concept I only internalized recently. Sure, I had worked towards it for my entire career as a martial artist, but until recently, it as been something that is just out of reach. Discovering what I am truly capable of has been a ground-breaking discovery for me. It has helped decide what my standards are and what I need to live up to. My first degree Black Belt to me has been a gateway to goal setting. It has let me know what I need to work on and how I need to work on it. It has helped me realize goals I didn’t know I had even set for myself, such as excellence in all areas in my life. Becoming a Black Belt has shown me that I can achieve excellence.

Throughout my school education, I have always had a goal of being “good” in the back of my head, but I hadn’t really defined what that meant for me. I always assumed being “good” meant getting straight A’s and paying attention in class. But now, I have surpassed that idea and my previous “good” has grown in excellence. Over the past year, my standards have changed in some way that I never thought about. I start feeling nervous about tests I think I didn’t do well on and I’ve found myself freaking out over simple homework assignments. I feel like school has come to mean more to me than just something to waste my time. I’ve started seeing it as something that can make or break my entire career. I have resolved to try and satisfy myself and get to where I want to go. In the past, I have aligned my standards within the standards of the school system, but I feel like this year, I have really defined what I want out of school. Through setting these goals, I have found that, even if I haven’t realized it, this rank has really changed me.

Music has been a large part of my life since I was born, so it’s natural that I include some goals relating to music in my second degree essay. I feel like music and Taekwondo take place in the same part of my life. When I’m playing music, or practicing at the dojang, I really feel like I take the opportunity to let myself go from everything that happened outside of whatever I’m doing, just like Master Morris tells us to do at the beginning of every class. Because of this, I am committed to keeping these parts of my life. In the future, I want to work on simple things such as sight reading and music theory, but also more complex things, such as increasing my practice time every week and making sure I practice the pieces I’ve previously done, much like the review I went through for my first degree testing.

So at the end of the day I’ve set some goals, I’ve tested once again and when I was writing this essay, I really had to think about what it means. Like I said before, when I tested to first degree, I didn’t really recognize it as something more than another belt. I don’t plan on making that same mistake with this belt. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to find what this belt means to me, and with this essay, I think I’ve found that definition. To me, the second degree black belt is telling me that I can actually reach the goals I set. It is confirmation that I can set my own standards and make them higher and higher every day. It tells me that I can be strong, intense, powerful, embody all the Taekwondo tenants, and be an inelegant and articulate person, all at the same time. This belt means that I have started my own path in the world, and I think this is the best first step I could have taken. As I bow out of a wonderful experience as a first degree and into a new one as a second degree, I would like to thank everyone who made this possible for me. I would like to thank my dad, Allan Wolf, for countless hours of review and break away practice. I’d like to thank David Kareken for giving us little tweaks in our throws and breakaways. I’d like to thank Tony and Ethan Morris for motivating me to bring myself to practice and raise the bar every time. I’d like to thank my mother, my sister and my brother for providing endless support at home and the dojang alike. I’d like to thank Master John Meanie for coming down and being part of this momentous occasion. And last of all, I’d like to thank every single one of the student here at Asheville Sun Soo. Thank you for your support, your feedback, your extra work after class. Thank you for creating such a wonderful, loving environment here where I can walk in and let go of everything I am not. Moving on in my practice will be a big step for me, but I’m glad I’ll have all of you to help me along.