시 범 단
The USTC Demo Team continues to prosper. Like a relationship between a garden and the sun, the energies of the team members and the energies of the master continue to feed each other, and the yield multiplies.
What an unexpected honor we received last night at demo practice when R and K let us know that Great Grand Master Lee had given them 15 patches (shown above) that he had been holding on to for…who knows how long. Kept in a drawer in his office, these bright red and gold patches are embossed with hangul: She Bum Dan, they proclaim. She Bum Dan means Demo Team, and these are to sew onto our blue doboks. These are the only patches in the school that you cannot buy from behind the glass merchandise case to sew onto your uniform.
We already were well aware by his occasional presence, additional instruction, and even direct feedback that he valued the work that the team was putting in. It was enough for us. But last night was an unmistakeable sign that we have risen to a new level. We were, frankly, a bit awed by the gift. If this seems strange to you, then you may not have worked/trained under a Korean master. Words are not wasted, and praise is not showered upon higher ranks. At that point, it is expected that you work hard for the reward of bettering your art—not for any outside accolades or adornment of status.
When you are a beginner, you will receive much encouragement and praise where needed, to let you know you are on the right track. Just as when a sprout in a garden first pokes itself above the soil to seek the sun, we do all we can to help it grow. It is, then, but a slender stalk of a plant, weak and wending wayward in the wind. Even a hard rain threatens its grasp in the soil. You shelter it in those fragile days; you guard it from cold.
This is like a white or yellow or even a green belt. They will be struggling with everything, as it is. They are making new, intense, demands of their lungs and body, and the pain will be a challenge—as will the techniques which require they use their muscles and limbs in ways never imagined. And they need more encouragement so that they do not give up, and so that they know which way to grow.
In time, you will find yourself at Brown Belt, and wonder where all the praise went! No, you won’t really. You understand what’s happening, and you are ready for the harder scrutiny. Or you’ve not been working hard enough! And it will have changed very gradually.
Anyway, the team is all Black Belts and four Cho Dan Bo who are very close to testing for Black. So we don’t expect a lot of praise from Master Lee, though it’s always warming. We know we are trying to polish on a finer level, and to do that, we need finer critique more than we need pats on the back. (And we get it!)
So, Master Lee’s breaking out these Demo Team patches was a somber and joyous moment, indeed.
As I’ve written before, the idea of a Demo Team at USTC has been floated before, has been attempted. But never has it blossomed into practical reality—at least not to the extent that it now manifests. We have various demo modules in place that we can pull off at any time (breaking routines, self defense routines, One Step Sparring routines, action routines); we are always honing new, inventive ways to showcase our art; we are now looking at special warm up suits that match our Demo Team suits; we are preparing to do a Demo at the Governor’s Cup in Washington (tournament); we are training to compete abroad. These things only came about because of the nitty gritty: because we’ve shown up regularly and sweat above and beyond what we do at the Dojang otherwise. Because we’ve pushed ourselves even through pain and the resistance we may have felt in various areas.
It’s an honor to be on the team, and it’s good to be part of something that flourishes when you are at your own best. Like the flow of the Yin-Yang [Um-Yang] symbol itself, this dynamic is an energy flow that circles around and back and forth to create a harmonious balance.