More like Crawl Day

Well, THAT was an exciting weekend. Sometimes my life is just so darned thrilling, I can barely believe it.

I dunno… the whole Leap Year thing, it feels like we should mark the day, somehow. We’re always saying “I just need a few more hours in the day!” and then we get an entire extra day, and what do we do? Well, I don’t know what YOU do, obviously, but I spend it just like any other day, and then I feel like I’ve wasted my opportunity to catch up. Now I have to wait four more years to blow it the next time. Sheesh.

Actually, we didn’t spend Leap Day COMPLETELY like any other day. One might say we maximized it in that special way that only extreme tedium can. Because Chickadee had belt testing on Friday night! Thereby teaching the ancient Korean art of being bored out of one’s skull!

This is the part where I’m supposed to say I’m kidding, but alas, I am not.

Look, I love Tae Kwon Do. I do. I think it’s a great sport, and I’m thrilled that Chickadee has stuck with it for all these years and seems to enjoy it. Any practice which integrates respect and control as key elements right alongside strength and power is fine by me. I take the kid to the studio several times a week and I don’t complain. It’s all good.


Back at the studio we used to attend, belt testing was done during class time. When the teachers had deemed you ready to advance, you’d be tested during class, and at the end you’d receive your new belt. No problem. The other kids in the class would either be testing as well, or if not, they’d sit and watch and maybe assist if another body was needed during sparring or whatever.

At this studio, testing is A Major Event. I’m surprised that they don’t rent out the Coliseum, honestly. Instead, they use the gym at the elementary school—which is about half as large as the space they need—and everyone from white belts to black packs in for the extravaganza.

And an extravaganza it is, my friends. THREE FREAKING HOURS of extravaganza.

In order to honor those who’ve attained higher levels, I guess, they start with the highest belt testing and work their way down. Which means that the little tiny kids—who are in preschool and for whom Tae Kwon Do is just an excuse to punch the air and yell without getting into trouble—have to sit there for close to two hours before it’s even their turn.

With all due respect to the ancient Korean masters of the form, I think that’s ridiculous.

My daughter is now a purple belt, which puts her slightly above the middle of the continuum. You’d think that’s good news, because by the NEXT testing she’ll probably be up there in the first hour, but you would be WRONG, because they call up each level for form testing and oral recitation, then they move on to the next group, and so on, and only AFTER each and every group has done THAT, do they then do sparring (again, by belt level) and finally, when your younger child has tired of the constant litany of “I’m bored. I’m tired. I’m hungry. When is it going to be over? I can’t SEEEEEEEEEE! When is she going to be up? Can I go say hi to my friend? Why not? Why is it taking so long? What time is it? How much longer?” and has slumped limp and twitching into your lap like a sack of sticky eels, only THEN do they move on to breaking boards!

Guess how many boards my child has broken at the two belt testings she’s had here in Georgia? That’s right! ABSOLUTELY NONE! Possibly because they generally reach the board breaking section of the program about an hour after her bedtime and roughly forty-five minutes after EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE HAS DIED.

I’m no fan of this “gather the herd” method of testing, but I understand that a lot of schools like to do it this way. Fine. I see the merit in having the younger students witness the older ones and the older students assist with the younger, absolutely. But why it’s necessary to do this on a Friday night completely escapes me. Everyone is tired and cranky and wanting to be anywhere other than packed into a gym filled with fidgety children and sweaty sparring gear.

I would be much happier if they did it on Saturday morning. Or Sunday afternoon. Or how about never? Never would be good for me, too.

And do you suppose that my darling daughter was pleased and excited to have passed at the end of the night? That having earned her purple belt—which means she will be going for red at the next testing—would be satisfying for her?

Oh, don’t be SILLY.

She was glum. Dare I say, hang-dog, even.

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“I didn’t break my board. I never break my board! And for red belt on up if you don’t break your board, you don’t pass. I’m going to be a purple belt FOREVER!”

If she doesn’t pass, that’s more belt testings we have to attend.

I had to resist the urge to tell her that if she doesn’t break the board next time, I will come up and break it for her. Possibly over the instructor’s head.

Instead, we took the kids out for ice cream. Because what’s an extra half hour and a big scoop of sugar once you’re already up way too late and worrying about what’s going to happen months from now? Root beer floats all around! Let’s toast to not having to do this again for several months!


  1. Flea

    I’d be asking, How many months? I feel your pain, Mir. Wussy mommy that I am, we dropped out of Tae Kwon Do after the first belt test. Root canal? Yes, please. Belt testing? Make it stop!

  2. MomCat

    Congrats to Chickadee! Remember, Tae Kwon Do is not all about board-breaking…it’s about how hard you can kick your brother under the dining room table.

  3. Megan

    Thank you! Thank you for pointing out that much as we love the little… ahem… darlings, that glow of parental pride doesn’t necessarily mean we enjoy watching all of those tests/concerts/school plays/recitals. Some, yes, particularly when one small darling bops another small darling over the head and bursts into tears because They Were Doing It Wrong. I like that bit. Also? Parental pride doesn’t mean parental ears are immune to musical discord. I went, I clapped, I supported, but I also wished the band teacher would move on from John Jacob Jingle Heimerschmidt JUST ONCE.

  4. carrie

    Couldn’t help laughing as I remembered my own watching the belt test experience. My son couldn’t break the dang wood, but his instructor was determined he would pass. For about a half an hour he kicked and kicked at the 2 pieces of wood while EVERYONE WATCHED and  WAITED. It was painful, but finally, in tears, he broke through.
    Root Beer Floats cure everything, though! Congrats to Chickadee!

  5. Leandra

    This is totally making me rethink my desire to sign Bubba up for Tae Kwon Do, though being able to yell and kick and punch and not get in trouble for it sounds like his idea of heaven.

  6. dad

    Congrats to my ass kicking grand-daughter and kudos to you for maintaining the ancient Korean tradition of “root beer floats all around” (hold the dog)after belt promotion.
    Should Chickadee become mired at this level, remind her that only royalty is born to the purple.

    Then break the board over the instructor’s head.

  7. All Adither

    Hmmm. We’re about to enter this labyrinth. Are there any martial arts that don’t require three mind-numbing hours in a gym?

  8. Ginnie

    Amen! Both of my kids are in Tae Kwon Do and they also do belt testing as one big group, on a Friday night. It is also jam packed BUT they do the lower belt testing first and work their way up to the higher belts. That way, all the little kids have their excitement at the beginning of the evening. They all must break the board so there is a lot of watching and waiting. Then they become completely bored watching the older kids and spend their time trying to build things with their broken boards. However, I am a mean mommy and I make them go to bed once we get home. It is a very painful, and expensive ($100 each testing) process and I cringe every time it rolls around.

  9. Stephanie

    I just love your dad! hehehe!

  10. Ani

    I heave a sigh of relief then, that my son’s Okinawan unpronounceable karate dojo does belt testing on schedule, one week/month, during class. But the actual presentation of the belts, it’s on Friday night too and it takes the same freaking forever. We don’t even bring his little brother along, it’s too painful.

    I hear ya. 100% Can I have a root beer float now too? Pretty please?

  11. LuAnn

    That’s the spirit, Mom! :)

  12. Jennifer

    WHAT IS IT WITH THE FRIDAY THING?!?!? I thought this particular level of torture was reserved only for us. In our case belt tests take place at the studio where there are exactly 10 places to sit. 10. That’s it. everyone else is forced to sit indian style on the floor until their legs atrophy from lack of blood flow. Although, I have to admit it’s pretty funny to watch everyone try to stand up at the end. In addition, when the higher level belts do weapons testing, we all have to be careful to make sure we don’t get nun-chucked to death. I feel sort of lucky that only my daughter seems to have any aptitude for the martial arts and that my son is not advancing through the belts quite as quickly. BTW — we always have to have sugar therapy when belt tests are over. I think it’s mandatory. We seem to run into lots of other parents at Baskin Robbins. . .

  13. Rachel May

    I love how your priorites as a mom are exactly the same as mine would be, i.e. “If she doesn’t pass, that’s more belt testings we have to attend.” :P

    Congrats, Chickadee!

  14. donna

    I’d a gone for the board over the head too. Sounds painfully exhausting, for parents and kids. Sometimes I don’t understand some people’s logic. Why do some people just not understand the fidgetiness of little kids?
    Congrats to Chickadee moving to the next level.

  15. Vane

    Congratulations to Chickie!! And to the supporting family as well :)

    My daughter took 2 levels of Tae Kwon Do but it was decided that she would switch to something else because a) her teacher was a really mean guy and she came out of class in tears more than once, b) she is such a tender kid, she never really liked it, so now … we’re cheerleaders!! hehe and she loves it.

  16. jennielynn

    So when I’m investigating studios for Missy Hoohaw’s lesson, the key question is not price, but how so you run your belt testing. Got it.

  17. daring one

    Okay. That sounds absolutely mind-numbing. I solute you for going and supporting her but, DANG! I think they’d be hard press to make that a less fun experience. When I got my, uh-hm, yellow belt in karate when I was 19, we did the test on a special night but only my class was invited so it was special but not long or overwhelming.

    I’m sure I wasn’t nearly as cute as Chickadee though.

  18. wafelenbak

    That is pretty ridiculous. At LEAST they should separate the older kids and the wee little ones. Is it me, or isn’t that just common sense?
    Blargh. Good on Chicky for sticking this out, but lord, how frustrating and exhausting!

  19. Jess

    Heh. My daughter’s dojo does it on Sunday mornings. Mercifully, they let the 3-5 year-old class go first, and then we get to duck out of the rest of the event, which can last the requisite THREE HOURS. I’m not sure if I want her to get her yellow belt, which would mean that she gets bumped up to the next class. ;)
    Good for Chickadee! :)

  20. Caz

    Ugh that must be terrible! When I was a teen, my brother and I took karate and we also had the huge Friday night events. It was one Friday of the month and everyone tested. However it was only ever 1 1/2 hours at most because we had a smaller school and all kids had already been tested and had earned their belt. This was just the ceremony. Thus the kids performed their forms as groups, there was never any sparring, just drills, and the instructors did forms to music at the beginning which was awesome. It ended probably at 8pm at the LATEST. Someone needs to talk to the school and explain the craziness of their process. Not good.

  21. Karen Sugarpants

    Belt testing should be the same for kids as it is for cars: drop them off and wait for the mechanic to call.

  22. beth

    Wow, a three hour belt test on friday night does seem crazy. Ours are always at least 3 hours but we do them saturday am. Our youngest kids right now are 7 and they have to participate the entire time. Over an hour is as a big group, then broken up by rank to do forms, sparring as a group, then breaking last. Everyone gets several tries at the board breaking but not all the kids always do it. If they can’t do it, we work one on one until they do. Their passing does NOT depend on breaking (even for black belt), the effort is all that matters. As for Chickie, if she needs some breaking pointers let me know. I actually did my research paper on breaking for our last testing cycle (4th gup). I learned a couple new ways that are pretty cool but also found the easiest breaks for both hands and feet.

  23. DBN

    Love the visual of breaking the board over the instructors head! We are still in the preschool soccer stage, so this is another thing I have to look forward to!

  24. Jamie AZ

    Oh dear lord, I want to poke my eyes out just reading about it. I’m glad my two play soccer for now!

  25. Headless Mom

    To Vane-Run from the cheerleading! As fast as you can!!! Cute when they’re young, but AWFUL when they are in HS. We are ending 7 years of this and I am thankful that I have boys next.

    We also did the TKD thing for a while (only thru yellow belt) but we were at a smaller gym and it didn’t take quite as long, although seating was terrible.

  26. D

    Hm, my son does TKD and it seems pretty “normal” compared to what all y’all go through. There’s a tournament where, in my mind, it’s a bloody mess – you’ve got the little belts sometimes in a ring next to KJNs doing sparring [darned frightening], but usually it’s controlled mayhem [times are off and rings aren’t announced right, but they’ve only been doing it for like 12 yeas, what do you expect?]. But those tournaments are about once a quarter – and you don’t have to go until you reach red/black, though it’s encouraged. Our school has belt testing on Saturdays for the older belts and it’s 30 mins – no breaking of a board and there’s often two or three belt levels testing together in the classroom with different instructors judging/grading. Guess we’re lucky. The littler belts do it during class time – much easier for the parents and the kids, in my biased opinion.

  27. D

    Drat – after all that I forgot to say CONGRATS to Chickadee on the purple belt. And, no, you won’t be purple forever. My son’s going really slowly through the belts, but he keeps plugging away at it and he’s advancing … and you will too!!! Hang in there and kick strong!

  28. mike golch

    Congrats to Chickadee on getting the purple belt.
    Me I don’t think I have the stamima to do what you are doing,keep plugging away at it.

  29. Carol

    Speaking of parental spectation events made fun… I don’t remember this, but my dad loves to tell a story of me at about four years old, in the Christmas Pageant. See, I was playing Mary and a boy I knew very well was playing Joseph. Apparently he was Doing It Wrong, because in the middle of the pageant, I hauled off and punched him!

    My dad has been digitizing his old home movies – apparently he ran across this one the other day. My fiance can’t WAIT to go see that!

  30. Therese

    I can relate to this. I spent the past two Friday nights and Saturdays (all day) in a sweaty school gym watching wrestling. Of course, the only whining was from me. “When will this torture be over?” “Can we go home now, please?” Hubby is very pleased with his mature wife.

  31. janet

    ugh. we have testing every three freakin’ months and THEN, a potluck to “award” the belts. although i will say that the little kids ARE herded through the testing procedure earlier and we dont have to watch them. but … uh … testing is STILL a three-hour procedure and then ANOTHER 2 hours on ANOTHER night for the belt awards.

    one is coming up on friday. kill me now.

  32. Kris

    Please tell Chickie the key to board breaking is focusing on the person holding the board and trying to hit THEM, not the board.

    We do a similar EXTRAVAGANZA but only at blackbelt and up level.

    The only way to get this changed is if enough people band together and complain. I feel for you. I really do. That’s just an insane set up.

    Hang in there. Is there another dojang you can transfer to?

  33. Kris

    Um, add to my previous comment “proper positioning”. If her position is not sufficient to break a board, they should be correcting that on the spot.

    We don’t require board breaking to pass a test until green belt. (Our belt system is a wee bit different than yours though.)

  34. Margaret

    We just had testing at Tae Kwon Do last week — they divide our groups by age and belt so the testing lasts 1.5 hours for each group. Testing is every 2 months. The black belt tests however are 3-5 hours depending on the size of the group and torturous because there are so many family members watching and not enough room so we sat hip-to-hip the entire time. Not fun. But my 2 girls got their black belts in December and are definitely proud of their accomplishment. It was a 3 year process and I even started and am now a purple belt. I think each school does it differently (and the belts are different as well) and you just have to find one that works for you.

  35. Lisa- Domestic Accident

    You just made me very glad my son quit at yellow belt. Thanks for the perspective.

  36. Sara

    Mmm…I can just smell the sweaty sparring gear from here. (And having had my sons in TKD, I really can…or maybe I just need to do laundry.) I say “Job well done, Chickadee.” And, as a gal with a Leap Day birthday, I also say, in four years, y’all should come celebrate 44/11 with me. Cake is waaayyy better than belt testing.

  37. carson

    I heard of a ballet studio that did all of their class recitals during the same performance. Six hours of bad ballet. Save that piece of information to share with Monkey at the next belt testing, and tell him it could always be worse.

  38. Scottsdale Girl

    Run a tournament…then come talk to me…

    Ok ok at least none of them were MY child and I was pretty busy the entire time.

  39. Tessa

    When I participated in/taught TKD, we tested on Friday nights, but it RARELY, if EVER, lasted more than 2 hours (and that was for a HUGE group). Basically, everyone did their basics and forms together, and as your newest form was completed, then you sat. So, nobody was ever sitting for a long period of time, because a LOT of it was all rank stuff. The longest sitting was during breaking, because obviously, that’s an individual thing.

    I feel for you. That would be awful. ESPECIALLY for the preschoolers. That’s just idiocy on the part of the instructor. I’d shoot someone.

    Congrats to Chickadee! And as for breaking, next time, tell her to aim BEHIND the board, not AT it. That was my biggest hangup at first. Aiming to HIT the board, not go THROUGH it. Pretend you’re going to hit the person holding it right in the chest. (If she’s really nervous, martial arts supply shops sell rebreakable boards of varying difficulties, if you find one on sale, might give her some confidence).

  40. Tiki

    Hi Mir,

    I’ve read your blog for quite awhile now and have yet to comment. I can comment on the Tae Kwon Do thing though. My husband is in the military and we currently live in Korea. My middle son is taking Tae Kwon Do right now and the place he goes to does the testing during class time. He does start with the black belts and goes down, but it doesn’t take longer than an hour. However, I do know that when you are testing for your black belt you have to go up to Seoul and test in a tournament there. Tell Chickie to hang in there and she’ll get that board broken!


  41. tori

    Will your dad adopt me? I always love his comments.

    My son’s football ceremony was the same way. They had all levels of kids there at the same time and we sat for hours watching them all get awards. My son played flag football and the kids were all very young. There really were no awards for picking flowers in the field, so his team didn’t get many despite being in first place for the flag football teams.

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