The final assessment – my 5th dan grading

Back in October 2021, I went to the Black Belt grading in Daventry and successfully passed my 5th Degree Black Belt. I wanted to be the best I possibly could for this grading, so I spent time preparing in advance. This is the story of that preparation…..

I took my 4th degree Black Belt back in October 2014. During the grading I sustained a knee injury, which I firmly believed at the time would be the end of my Taekwon-Do training. There were several weeks of not being able to walk, followed by around 18 months of light training. At this point my instructor decided to retire and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to become the club instructor. My motivation to progress was fuelled again, and I began a four year journey to get ready.

Kicking with bad knees! Receiving my 4th Dan certificate from Grandmaster Michael Dew. The foundations of our club in 2018. My first two white belts getting ready for their grading

Primarily I see myself as a student, I always love to train and enjoy the challenge of learning something new, and the 4th Dan sylabus was not without it’s challenges. Pattern Tong Il seemed to take so long to learn. Both my instructors, Mrs McIlvar and Mrs Tombling are both inspirational teachers and I found I was able to feed off their knowledge and enthusiasm for the art.

During COVID-19 restrictions, I pushed myself with home training, using Zoom. Despite gaining a lot out of this, sometimes training for multiple sessions a day, I was determined to push harder over the 9 months or so leading up to the grading.

Home training – A mixture of Black Belt syllabus, fitness circuits and my own exercises. I was determined to use this period to improve!

In the run up to the grading, I increased my training schedule. I started to get up an hour earlier (3:45am!) and head off to the gym. I used this time to run, train on the equipment then go into the mirrored studio to improve on my forms. I like to think I improved through this, and just before taking the first part of my grading, I felt I was probably the fittest I had ever been.

Watching my forms and movement, working out how to improve my techniques. Using the facilities in a 24 hour gym to push my fitness, to be the best I could for the grading.

The Black Belt grading has different stages to pass. The first stage is a local assessment, where the senior Black Belts in the area put a group through their paces over a gruelling two hour session. My feedback was extremely positive, and I felt at this point I ‘hit my peak’ in terms of what I was able to do.

The grading itself was held in Daventry. This was the first time a Black Belt grading had been held outside of the TAGB academy in Bristol. I was also very fortunate, that the grading schedule of my amazing wife, aligned with mine on this occasion and we were able to take this together.

Grading photo courtesy of Mr Stephen Lamberth. British Championship photos courtesy of the TAGB media team. (Nov 2021)

Our eight year old daughter also trains with us, and is a member of the same club I train at in Malmesbury. I have been encouraging her to compete at the local and national tournaments. To support her with this, I’ve started competing myself again, which I hadn’t done since 2004 when I was a first Degree Black Belt. She has gone on to win some medals which has made me very proud! We are due to compete in the Welsh Championships in May 2022.

As I had completed my grading in October 2021, the first tournament was in November 2021 – The British Championships. I was given three forms to perform at this level, Moon Moo, So San and Yon Gae, all of which are 5th Degree patterns and I was unfamiliar with. I spent the time learning Yon Gae and was pleased with how I did, as I reached the second stage in a large group.

My next challenge is to learn a 2nd 5th Dan pattern and try and perform this at a tournament, maybe in October this year.

It’s good to challenge yourself and have motivating goals!!

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