shortly after i made first geup (Red Belt), i was invited to join the dojang’s core demo team (CDT). [Clarification: I was invited to perform in the Demo Team for Korea Night. Only recently (It is now May 30, a day after our Korea Night performance) was I asked to join the CDT. More on this soon in its own post.) To me, this is a huge honor. to be invited, you have to some degree or combination of good technique, dedication, discipline, and passion. i’m sure the formula varies for each person considered, and i’m not here to try and claim that nobody gets on without having X, Y, or Z of A, B, or C. i don’t so much care for that part of the equation. but to have a chance to represent the school and perform in venues in a live setting really thrills me. it steps up the challenges i already take on in taekwondo and for USTC (my dojang), and offers a chance for me to demonstrate and practice even greater discipline and control of technique. the snazzy blue, reflective dobok with the texture and pattern that reminds me of rattlesnake skin is fun, and so is working with a team as a unit. obviously, people take it seriously to different degrees, but i take it very seriously. i have a high standard for myself as it is, and want to bring that to the team, and help show the world through our performance, the level of quality possible to manifest; a level of quality which mirrors the standard which master lee sets forth. because i am dramatic about just about everything as well as prone to a wee bit of the self-aggrandizement, i think of us as the elite squad of USTC; the SEALs unit, the creme de la creme. but thinking of it that way is also my way of demanding full concentration and commitment to the team and how we do and not treating it casually or lightly. and that’s the way i approach my art in general.
the first venue i’ll be participating in is Korea Night. i’m not sure if this is going to take place at the university, or is a local town thing. but it will be an exceptional audience, i am told. for obvious, i think, reasons. mainly that we practice a korean martial art. and one that koreans tend to be very proud of. with good reason! so we are drilling especially hard due to this factor. sloppiness will be noticed. sloppiness not just in technique, but in protocol such as bowing. these are the kind of demands and challenges i enjoy very much. drills, form, physical control, memory, refining performance…physical art. i don’t so much enjoy the demands and protocol of everyday mainstream society. that’s a performance i engage in to varying degrees, according to the current context and why i might feel the need to conform to those requirements. but demo team is part of my chosen art, and i’m all about spending lots of time honing my performance. i am also told that chances are good that we will be met with a very warm reception by this particular crowd. all in all, these are exciting thoughts for me on my first demo team performance, though i won’t pretend they don’t also ratchet up the pressure!
taekwondo practice and protocol—and this especially shows in team coordination and performance such as the demo team embodies—is very military in nature. our march-jog onto and off of stage, the “left face” commands and such, the proper way you move your feet when following these orders; the chain of command; the hierarchy; the respect shown, and how it is shown, the drills, the counting, and so on. i’ve had conversations with martial artist friends that this aspect of our training is satisfying both to practitioners who enjoy the discipline and form of such things, as well as to those of us who feel at home training as warriors, but abstain from the US military due to personal conflict in beliefs with/distaste for the various wars and chaos of our country’s international policies, not to mention the horrific deeds and outcomes of these wars. it is a great middle ground, to my mind.
the first night at demo practice was fun. as well as a bit bewildering! ay, it was like the first day (well, not quite that bewildering) at the dojang all over again. trying to keep up with the format, with drills and shouts and formation that i have only seen once or twice when watching demo team videos on facebook. and that, from a distant camera and mirrored, as it was facing the team, not standing with them. i was a bit lost, but was told i was picking up fast. all in all, i was right where i should have been. you walk and trip before you run. i’ll practice at home today more, and in the days in between demo practice. we have another session tonight. today is a full TKD day. between noon practice, assisting the instruction of kids class, and then later, demo team practice, its TKD all day long.
i need to bone up on Koryo big time. it’s a complex poomsae (hey, it’s the first black belt poomsae after all), i just learned it first three weeks ago, and then last night, we did it facing the mirror instead of the front of the class. whoa. i got really lost for most of it. that irritated the hell out of me. though, yes, i’m being hard on myself. as it is, i’m picking it up relatively fast (or so i’m told), and now putting extra demands on myself with the change in orientation before i really have it cemented in my muscle memory. but all i can do is practice every day a few times until its solid. i have three weeks until Korea night. i’m going to practice it until there is no hesitation. i’m going to practice it from different angles. i’m going to visualize the stage and audience in my mind so it’s not a total shock out there under the lights, and with people making noise and watching. performing Koryo (name of ancient Korean dynasty) on Korea night in my first demo team performance. wow. it’s definitely a challenge, but i’m going to meet it.
i shaved my head for the first night of demo team. for me, it represented a new phase of my practice, as well as ridding myself of the energy and time and fretting i’ve long been putting into my physical adornment; the braiding, the gel, the oils, the dye, the straightening irons, the bandannas, the hats, the self-obsession in the dojang mirror with my hair puffing out, the time i spend watching sweat roll off my hair, wiping it off my face. it was a total joy to shave it off. i let all that nonsense go as the thick, dark hair fell to the floor. i think of the buddhist initiates, the monks who shave their heads as a sign of their dedication and simplicity and rejecting unnecessary vanity or wasted energy in unimportant areas.
i’m also going to use this opportunity to introduce more greens and grains and fruits and veggies into my diet, as i’ve been meaning to do. it all feels right. it’s all happening right on time. i’m entering the final stretch before black belt. time to refine, bear down, purify, dedicate without reserve to this path.