The Heart of a Warrior

Danielle Uchitelle

On Friday night I witnessed an exceptional display of warrior fortitude and determination during this month’s belt promotion test. A belt test is always an opportunity to show what you’ve learned in your martial arts study and to demonstrate your mastery of the WMAC curriculum. But sometimes it becomes more than that, and in those moments the true warrior spirit shines forth.

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Late in Friday’s test, after hours of running through our forms and techniques under Chungsanim Dominick’s appraising eye, she cleared the mat and requested that red belt Kat (later joined by red belt Lamyae) stand before her. Then she said, simply, “Show me all your mat skills.” At first both seemed confused by the request; you expect to be asked to demonstrate a specific form or technique, not “show me everything you’ve got.” But once they realized what was expected, they threw themselves - literally - into it.

I know from my own experience that front falls, back falls, and side falls will rapidly drain you of energy if continued for very long, and it was clear to all of us watching when Kat and Lamyae had exhausted their reserve of falls. But then they did something that was truly amazing: each reached somewhere inside herself and, without a hesitation, began to repeat the mat fall sequences over and over again. We could all see and feel how exhausted they were, and that’s why everyone spontaneously began to cheer and clap as the minutes stretched on and Kat and Lamyae threw themselves onto the mat again and again.

I’ve seen many astonishing things happen in belt tests: forms executed with breathtaking precision, techniques applied with power, focus, and efficiency. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a demonstration of simple, unquestioning heart and determination as we witnessed that night. When Kat and Lamyae received their new Hubai belts from Chungsanim, everyone knew that these two had truly earned their rank by demonstrating a part of the warrior spirit that is beyond skill and strength. Congratulations, Kat and Lamyae, warriors.

Delta HunterComment
How to Make Every Test a Success

by Bodan Danielle Uchitelle

I used to experience dreadful anxiety before each one of my WMAC belt promotion tests. Would I remember all 15 parts of cross hand technique? Would I get confused between the 6 sections of Han Su? What if Sabumnim asked me to demonstrate a weapons form that I hadn’t yet fully learned? Would my endurance carry me through the entire test, or would I run out of energy and end up too exhausted to continue? My anxiety prevented me from performing as well as I knew I could, much less actually enjoying the test.

I have, however, come up with a strategy that guarantees in advance that each of my promotion tests will be a success, and knowing that I’m certain to succeed allows me to relax more and actually enjoy testing.

What’s my strategy to guaranteed success? I base it on some wise advice shared by Kristin Walsh, 2nd dan Black Belt and yogi, who came to WMAC a few years ago to speak about spiritual approaches to training. In addition to other wisdom, some (much) beyond what I could grasp at that time, Kristin spoke of the importance of approaching all aspects of life with generosity and gratitude. Focusing on actual approaches for incorporating gratitude into our lives, Kristin emphasized the importance of simple acts such as helping those in need and being generous with our time and our money.

While this initially sounded to me like a well-worn platitude about helping others, as I thought about her comments over the following months (OK, I’m a slow thinker!) I became aware of a way I could take two seemingly separate questions - how do I express generosity and gratitude in my life? How can I be less stressed at belt promotion tests? - and combine them into single solution.

Here’s how I do it: a week or so before each belt test, I chose some charity organization to donate money to. It can be anything at all, as long as it feels like a cause that supports my own belief systems. Once I’ve identified the group, I go online and donate. It’s that simple. The amounts I give aren’t huge, because I don’t have that kind of money, but it’s a large enough amount that when I click the “donate now” button, I know I’ve made a committed transfer from my fortunate life into the lives of others who need my help. And all the while, I’m thinking to myself, “this is for next month’s belt test.”

How did this help relieve my test anxiety? Because I know that no matter what happens on the test floor, somebody is going to get some real benefit and have a better life because they needed my help and I helped them. It doesn’t matter whether I can’t remember the difference between knife technique number 26 and number 28. Doesn’t matter if I trip and fall on my face during Han Su. The person I’ve helped isn’t stressing out about whether I’ve misremembered the sequence of a martial arts form, and if they’re not worrying about it, why should I?

Delta HunterComment
Dragonchucks at WMAC HapKido Springbreak Camp

At WMAC, just as an adult higher belt is expected to help with the training of lower belts, from early in their training children are given the opportunity to teach their peers. At last week’s Spring Break Camp I got to watch as the kids brought a high level of patience and focus to the task of sharing their knowledge.

Under the tutelage of Sabumnim, Bodan Instructor Lauren, and Assistant Instructor Ezeldine, our young warriors made rapid progress through their forms and techniques, especially “dragonchucks”, the Dragon Form/nunchuck hybrid, an advanced, kids-only form. Because if there’s one thing kids love even more than teaching each other, it’s knowing how to do something that the adults around them don’t.

by Bodan Danielle Uchitelle

Delta HunterComment
9am Class

When I extol the many benefits of WMAC’s Monday through Friday 7:00 AM classes, the response I hear most often is, “I’d love to train in the morning, but that’s just too early for me to wake up.” Now you can cross that excuse off your list, because we’ve recently added a 9:00 AM class two days a week, so you can get your day off to a Hapkido start and still get all the sleep you need.

World Martial Arts Center - Black Belt Holger Thoss

World Martial Arts Center - Black Belt Holger Thoss

Led by Black Belt Instructor Holger, and frequently assisted by Kyosanim Eva, the 9:00 AM class is ideal for WMAC warriors who have just dropped their kids off at school, late morning shift workers, freelancers, and anyone else who wants to begin their Monday and Wednesday with energy and Ki. Holger explained that the small size of a typical class allows him to focus on curriculum material and belt test prep. If you’re training for your next promotion test it’s the perfect way to make sure you have all the forms and techniques you need.

For all you late sleepers and schoolkid shuttlers: see you on the mat, 9:00 AM Monday and Wednesday.

By Bodan Danielle Uchitelle

Delta HunterComment
March 2017 Promotion Test

From Danielle Uchitelle -

In the March belt tests on Friday morning and evening we showed the results of our hard work in a rigorous (but fun) promotion test, and on the following morning the WMAC children brought their “big selves,” demonstrating their expertise to the senior Black Belts in the children’s promotion test. Congratulations to the all those who successfully completed the test and received their new belts, and thanks to the senior Black Belts, Kyosanims, Chungsanims, and Sabumnim for supervising the tests. As Sabumnim told us on Friday evening, “It’s easier to keep improving once you have momentum, so keep moving forward and don’t stop training.”

Delta HunterComment
Sunday's Little Warriors

From Bodan Danielle Uchitelle

I have a deep respect for all the kids in our children’s program, but there’s one bunch I hold in special esteem: the children who come to our Sunday morning class. While other kids are still at home in their pajamas, these young warriors are training in the martial way at the 11:00AM class.

A special “Mudo, Yes I Can” to our dedicated Sunday team of kids, and to their parents who bring them to class each week.

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February School-Wide Test

February is WMAC's month for school wide testing. If you were unable to make the February test, you must test in March. As always, the tests are three separate events: Friday morning testing for early rising warriors followed by the room-filling, high energy evening test, and the children’s test on Saturday morning.

Congratulations to all who participated, and to everyone whose hard work and training was rewarded with a new belt. For those who could not be in the February school-wide test, set your training goals now, and let it all shine at the March test.

Delta HunterComment
White Belt Month and White Belt Challenges

January is always white belt month at World Martial Arts Center, when we return to the basics. We wear our white uniforms and focus on the martial arts fundamentals for an entire month. It’s always my favorite training month of the year.

Each year’s white belt month seems to have its own unique theme. This year we delved deeply into a seemingly simple hand technique to discover its complexity and subtlety, and we took a high-energy form and learned how to break it down into its simple components.

But in addition to the month-long themes within white belt month, what I look forward to most is my personal white belt challenge. I learned this approach a few years ago from one of the WMAC senior instructors. Each day during January I would see him practicing rolls and falls on the mat. I thought his mat work was already pretty amazing, and one day I asked him about what he was practicing. He told me that every January he chose one things that he wanted to improve in his own personal practice, and that year it was mat work on his left side; he’s right-handed, and like most of us can perform rolls much more easily on one side than the other.

From this I began to think about my own white belt challenges, and I keep a list of things I want to focus on during January. This year, I decided that my personal challenge would be to take at least one thing I learned in each class and write it down in a notebook after class. I figured that if I walked off the mat after an hour-long class and couldn’t recall at least one important correction, insight, or new material, I should be paying closer attention.

How did I do this year in my personal white belt challenge? Not perfectly, but pretty well nonetheless; reviewing my notebook, there are entries for almost every class I took. And while even I have trouble reading my own handwriting, the act of stopping to contemplate and record one takeaway from each class has been a valuable exercise and one that I plan to bring into the other 11 months of the year.

What would you chose for your own white belt challenge? You don’t even need to wait until next January to start.

Delta HunterComment
When Life Gives You a Sidewalk, Make Sidewalk Class

Saturday morning class stalwarts arrived at the dojang this morning to find themselves unexpectedly locked out in the frigid January air. It seems that the building management replaced the front door lock on Friday, and the keys we were provided didn’t work. Fortunately, Sabumnim was there to turn a morning lockout into a master class in how to defend effectively on a hard and sloping sidewalk.

Let’s face it: when we’re called upon to use our techniques of self-defense, are we really likely to be in a room full of mats, wearing comfortable clothing and bare feet? Much more probable that we’ll find ourselves in street clothes, wearing shoes, and faced with negotiating a hard and uneven concrete surface.

As we gradually warmed up on the sidewalk of Atlantic Avenue, Sabumnim showed us how to practice moving and kicking on an uneven, sloping sidewalk. He showed us how to connect plum blossom hand strikes with diagonal movement and downward-directed kicks to an attacker’s lower leg.

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When Darren, our reliable front desk attendant, finally arrived with the key, we’d completed almost an hour of impromptu class in street defense on the hard concrete of Atlantic Avenue. And even though it was an amazing class, I was happy to get inside and defrost my toes.

Delta HunterComment