No karate test for me


My youngest, Andy, and I a few tests ago. I won a “Best of the Test” medal.

Our next karate test was scheduled for last week. At first I thought I would still take my test, maybe my last one for a long while, but I decided not to after all. It’s the first one I’ve missed since I started karate two years ago.

For those who don’t know, you take classes several times a week, then test once every 3 months for your next belt level. The test includes both the physical part where you do karate forms, actions, sparring, etc. and a verbal test where you are questioned on various parts of Tang Soo Do, including Korean terminology.

Our family entered the world of karate when my oldest son, then 6, asked to take karate and one by one over the last few years, all seven of us eventually joined in. I would have never thought this, but it really draws you in. The ideas that are iterated in Tang Soo Do are respect, self-accountability, resilience, honesty and truth, being just, and physical and mental fitness. When we first started, we felt a little out of place, but before long we felt at home. We were so welcomed in the docheng, which can be difficult in a small town like this where everyone else seems to have been born and raised here and quite often are inter-related. Although we’ve made many good friends in this town over the years, we have always felt like the outsiders. We’ve never felt as if we have belonged as much as when we are with our karate family.

Belt promotion in December, 2013.


I’m currently a red belt, which is the last color before black belt, so I am at an advanced level. But, there are 8 level tests on your red belt (they show on your belt as stripes as you earn each one), so I have over 2 more years to test for black belt.

I just didn’t feel up to testing. I’d been having great anxiety, not sleeping well, and of course hormone issues after stopping my hormone pills. That caused worse anxiety which led to even less sleep, and stomach issues. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.

All I could think was – I have cancer, but I can’t start the fight against that yet. I couldn’t even remember my Korean terminology. Every time I go to class I struggle with that, but it was even worse with my lack of sleep and my worries. I didn’t want to stress about trying to study and whether I would even pass. If not, I’d need to retest. And when you get to the advanced levels, you have to spar as part of the test. You wear headgear, and hand and feet padding, but even so, you get a bit bruised if  “light touch” accidentally becomes a hard hit (which happens a lot). What if I got hit in the breast? What if it broke the lump apart and the chunks of loose cancer spread elsewhere in my body? I was just too mentally worn out to even consider it.

I felt a sense of relief when Tim and the kids registered for the test without me. At the same time, I wondered if this was just the first in a long line of times that I would feel left out.

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