2nd Degree Black Belt Journey – by Ben Truong
This is my Journey to Black Belt Confidence! I started Taekwondo in March, 2018. Though that may not seem so long ago, I can assure you that a LOT has happened between then and now, as I read this to you. There are way too many memories to talk about, that I can’t address them all to you today. From working out with Grand Master M.K. Lee on zoom to training in the freezing pavement during legacy class, here is a summary of my taekwondo journey.
It all started in March 2018, with a free trial class. What was supposed to be a 2 week experiment for my sister, Alexandra, and myself ended up being a 4 year long journey, that will continue for years to come! I remember that first class. It was a small class of only 4 people, and Mr. McCann was teaching. I remember him tying on my white belt as I joined that class. I, being the lowest rank, was intimidated by the fact that the second lowest rank was a purple belt! Not to mention that they were all much taller and bigger than I was.
I did end up surviving that first class, and astonishingly, I enjoyed it! So fast forward to July of 2018 when I joined leadership class. I remember the first leadership class I attended, we were working on the 9 double ssahng jeol bong counts. I was completely lost, while everyone else understood it! I remember it being super discouraging, however I never gave up because Master Karpiuk always told me that I should have a “yes I can” attitude!
My very first competition was when I was a camo belt. It was in Cloverdale. It was December of 2018 and I will cut to the chase: I did not win! In fact, I lost several matches to a district champ, who was a red belt. However, that tournament was still such an enjoyable experience because it helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and in turn improved my taekwondo. A couple months later, I placed 2nd in forms at another tournament in Langley, as a green belt.
In November of 2019, I attended my third tournament. It was so intense! I was a brown belt, neck and neck in sparring with another brown belt. The score was 4-4 and we were at sudden death, meaning we were fighting for the last point. I ended up winning narrowly by 1 point, and it was such a humbling experience.
In March of 2020, I was considering plans to attend district championships in Oregon, when I found out that competitions would be shutting down, due to covid. I was very disappointed, however, on the bright side, I also saw this as an opportunity to get extra practice before I would get back on the ring.
Online training went on for a few more months. My sister and I would always practice in our basement on Mondays and Wednesdays, with my mom and dad occasionally joining in for board breaking! I remember kicking my foosball table during sparring for my online belt exam!
In May of 2020, Master Karpiuk would invite me to work for him part time. I was thrilled and took the offer ASAP. For a while, I had been volunteering and assisting in classes, so I had always wanted to become an instructor. Since then, the role of assisting and teaching classes has enhanced not only my taekwondo, but my confidence. The part of seeing students thrive with taekwondo and seeing their skills and character develop over time is a joy of being an instructor.
In August of 2020, I tested for my first instructor collar. It was 8 hours in total, 4 hours on a Wednesday and a Thursday. We warmed up with so many pushups, crunches, sit ups, all 9 forms, all the one steps from white thru yellow belt, and the teaching quadrants. I remember how tough and demanding the seminar was, given how my legs felt like glue the next day. But it was such a great experience and a great time with my fellow legacy members!
In October of 2020, I tested for my first degree black belt. This was a unique time, as covid cases were at an all time high, and a lockdown was imminent. I ended up doing the testing in person, and historically I got inducted over zoom! It was the first EVER online induction! I ended up tying my own belt over zoom and I impressively did not get candle wax on my uniform, for the candle ceremony!
The best part about being a black belt is the ability to learn complex forms and interesting weapons. It also is great being a leader of the school and providing an example for others to follow.
My advice for new black belts would be to consider goals beyond just earning the next degree of black belt: these could be goals such as becoming an instructor one day. Also, I would say that while the forms may be long and tricky at first, you will know them eventually and will look back on it and be proud of how far you’ve come.
My future goals in taekwondo include earning my third degree black belt and becoming a certified instructor. I would like to continue working part time and maybe even one day test for 4th degree at Nationals or Worlds. Even after I graduate high school, I want to continue training.
People I would like to thank for helping me achieve this goal are:
First my mom and dad, for always driving me to my classes and driving me to the academy when I need to teach. For always encouraging me and supporting me in my goals, even when I am not motivated.
Next, my sister Alexandra, for being an amazing sister and training partner. I always enjoy working on forms and sparring with you, and doing self defense drills in class with you!
Mr. McCann, for encouraging me throughout my journey and teaching my first class. For encouraging me to continue with taekwondo even when my first class was challenging.
Mr. Wilson, for guiding me for how to further my skills as both a student and an instructor. For helping me prepare for my belt testings.
Mr. Millard, for your awesome classes and your encouragement. You always looked at the bright side of things, even when I didn’t see them, such as when I don’t do so well in class.
Sr. Master Karpiuk, for being an awesome mentor throughout this whole process. Everything from meeting me at my first class, to working for you now, and for many years to come.
My fellow legacy members: Nathan and Samuel Ng, Tyler and Althea Leyba, Jahmauri, Paramveer, Lera Lan, Isha and Avani Kumar; thank you so much for being not only great training partners, but such good friends and even a second family. I will always remember all the memories of training with you all.
Thank you all for listening to my journey. It has been such a journey so far, and I look forward to many more years of training and learning. Thank you.
Scott Karpiuk, 7th Degree Black Belt
Master Instructor, BA Education