The Little Caucasian Boy

May 22, 2008
By Andrew Cousar, Lancaster, PA

The Little Caucasian Boy
Tae Kwon Do, a martial art originating from South Korea, means “to destroy by the way of foot and fist.” Although its meaning says different Tae Kwon Do is a method of self-defense. Like most martial arts, Tae Kwon Do uses a sequence of belts, which indicate the skill level of one in training. A beginner in Tae Kwon Do wears a white belt and later advances to yellow, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, light brown, dark brown, and black. Between each belt color, there is a test which one must pass to advance to the next belt. All tests include sequence and attack exhibits, offensive and defensive sparring, and object breaking.
In 6th grade I experienced my first test in Tae Kwon Do, which I was required to pass in order to advance to yellow belt. I was one of few Caucasian students who trained at the studio, and as if that didn’t demoralize me enough, the judges and grandmasters were all Korean. I could sense my task was difficult. There I stood, a timid and piddling white boy, in the middle of the room with other students, all of whom appeared noticeably more confident than me. I glanced at the black belt instructor who stood placidly in front of the judges’ table. “Charyot,” he yelled, firmly, shattering the silence in the room. All at once, we directed our attention to him. “Kyong-yeh!” he ordered. The entire class bowed to the American flag, Korean flag, and judges. “Choon bee,” he snapped, firmly, waiting for us to assume our stances.
I gulped, wondering what task I’d attempt to conquer first. The black belt in charge of the test pointed to me and several other belts. His eyes shifted to the back of the room. I tried my best to turn around in a tranquil manner. Biting my lip, I followed the rest of the belts to the back of the room where 7 stacks of 2-inch-thick boards lay. My face flushed, and I felt sick to my stomach. “What awful attack will they ask me to use against one of these boards?” I thought with my eyes closed. Three 5th degree black belts began setting up pairs of cinder blocks, which were used to balance 1 or more wooden planks.
I watched as the teachers picked random belts and matched them with a board. Upon hearing my name, I stepped forward and took a deep breath. “Soodo!” the black belt standing in front of me ordered. Soodo is the more difficult of hand techniques used to break a single board. Meaning, “knife hand,” soodo is a flat-handed, slanted attack, which uses minimal surface area to break an object.
After releasing an inaudible grunt of dissatisfaction, with pure humility and respect, I nodded and stepped toward the board. My heart was pounding, as I extended my right arm above and behind my head. With my legs stretched out like an oblique-shaped v, I buried my heels, took a deep breath, and abruptly shifted my hips and stance, invoking a massive amount of torque. With all of my weight centered on my target, I shouted and sliced down through the board, shattering it and tumbling the cinders aside. The audience and judges roared and applauded. Relieved, I stood up swimmingly, and bowed to the judges. I gazed down at the splintered memento, grinning at the irregularity of the gash which separated it. Whispering among the clapping, I heard a Korean kid say to another, “Did you see that? That little Caucasian boy broke a board!” After recovering my broken prize, I headed to the wall, where waited the rest who broke their boards. Absolved of all prior anxieties, I was eager to cheer for those who succeeded me.

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