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What it takes to earn a black belt in taekwondo

Kidsday reporter Aleksandra Holub of Eastport Elementary School

Kidsday reporter Aleksandra Holub of Eastport Elementary School breaks a board doing taekwondo. Credit: Iwona Holub

There’s a saying: For every 10,000 people who start a martial art, half drop out after six months; of those that remain, 1,000 will finish a year, only 100 of those will stay for two years and a handful of 10 will get their black belt.

Black belt tests in taekwondo are very intense. There are three main parts to the tests, all together taking about 2 to 3 months. But students have been preparing for it since day one of their journey, which would be about two years.

The first part of the test is a packet you have to fill out. Inside is a 50-day exercise log for push-ups and situps. There is also a 50 acts of kindness log. And finally, an essay summing up your experiences through your taekwondo journey. The essay you write will be displayed on the wall of black belt essays for everyone to see. These things must be finished within a time limit, which is about a month from the pretest.

The second part of the test is considered the hardest. It is a fitness test. There are a series of exercises, including push-ups and situps, squats and kicks. Each participant is required to do exercises within a given time, and you must use proper form.  

A month after the pretest is the official black belt test. You will be tested on your self-defense, blocking, form, kicking, breaking and your overall attitude. During the self-defense test, you will be paired with another student. Blocking is fairly easy. You simply do the pattern of moves, reciting their names in Korean. Form,  poomsae in Korean, is a combination of block and strike, a pattern of 16 to 23 moves that are to be memorized. Each student must execute three forms on their own: Taegeuk Yook Jang, the brown belt form; Taegeuk Chil Jang, the red belt form; and Taegeuk Pal Jang, the semi-black belt form. If you make a mistake, you must start over.

During board breaking, each student is given seven wooden boards. You hand out the boards to five black belts. In the first breaking technique, called hammer fist, you strike all the way down with your fist. You will have to break two boards at once. After that is ax kick, where you bring your leg all the way over your head and strike down onto the two boards in front of you. When you are able to get that done, you move onto palm strike. The holder holds the board all the way at the bottom and you have to hit the board with your palm so fast that it breaks in two. Then you do a back kick with one board. It isn’t too hard, but with your heel hurting from the ax kick I suggest hitting it more with the other side of the heel. The last breaking technique is a flying side kick. You start running at the board and right when it’s in front of you, you jump and hit it, hopefully breaking it.

Throughout the test, they will check how you act, if your is posture good, if you are answering with respect and if are you ready to become a black belt.

George Marino's sixth-grade class, Eastport Elementary School

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