Marshmallow Mondays

Belt Test

SONY DSCOn Saturday, Rydan tested for his Senior First Degree Black Belt. This is the first time he tested since October 11, 2014, the day that Ryan had his transplant. On that day we cheered for Rydan from the hospital in Cincinnati as he tested for his First Degree Black Belt (and passed).

Since then, Rydan has taken his time perfecting his form and preparing for his next belt test. He actually chose not to test at the past two belt tests because he didn’t feel quite ready. When it comes to Taekwondo, Ryan and I tend to sit back and let Rydan make his own decisions about testing. This obviously isn’t something that neither of us know much about, so therefore we can’t help him a whole lot outside of offering our encouragement. That alone says something about the way that Rydan has committed to Taekwondo, as well as the things that he has accomplished over the past three years that he’s spent at Sid Nelson’s Taekwondo America.

Early last week, Rydan still wasn’t sure if he wanted to test for his Senior First Degree Black Belt. Like other tests, this one would consist of correctly doing his form and sparring. This time, however, he was required to do three board breaks – an elbow strike, side kick, and a spinning side kick. The spinning side kick is a new break for him, and he’d been struggling with it for awhile. Up until this point, Rydan had never failed a belt test, and we could see that fear of failure having an effect on his decision to test or not. We had daily conversations with him about his belt test, and told him that we would support his decision either way. By the middle of the week, he asked if he could get some extra practice on the spinning side kick with Mr. Nelson, so that’s exactly what we did, and it seemed to boost Rydan’s confidence.

As a parent, this was a tough one for me. In no way did I want Rydan to hold himself back simply because he was afraid of failing, but I also didn’t want him to feel pressured into doing something that he wasn’t ready to do. His Taekwondo journey is something that is all his. He’s earned every new belt through practice, commitment, and perseverance. So, when he asked for extra practice, I trusted that that’s what he needed.

By Saturday, he seemed ready to go. He was the only Junior First Degree Black Belt testing that day, so he would be last to test in his group. I watched him sit patiently, glancing at me every few minutes at which point we’d exchange a thumbs up or a quick smile. When it was his turn, he did his form and was not asked to do it a second time, which is always a good sign.


He also sparred well.


And then he sat down again to wait patiently until it was his turn to break boards. This is always the nerve-wracking part for most parents. Students can correctly do their form and spar well, but if they don’t break their boards, they don’t pass their test. We watched Rydan cheer on his fellow students, never showing any signs of nerves.

At last it was his turn to break. His fellow students gathered around and cheered for him the way he had done for them. On his first attempt (students are given three tries at each break), he easily broke through the wood with his elbow strike.


His side kick was no different, first try.


It all came down to his spinning side kick. The room fell quiet, and I could feel my hands shaking as I tried to hold my phone steady to video him. He missed his first attempt. Still, he showed zero signs of panic. He simply set up again for his second attempt, but his aim was too high and his foot bounced right off of the board. Still, not a single sign of panic or hesitation from him. He looked so determined as he set himself up for his third and final attempt. When I heard the sound of the wood snapping in half, the room erupted with cheers.


“I knew I’d get it on the third try, Mom.” That’s what he said to me afterwards. The belief he has in himself at just ten years old is so strong, and in that moment it was really inspiring.

The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday, so that’s when we’ll know official results.

There are no words for how proud I am of Rydan, not just for the way he persevered through that last break, but for the way he handled himself that day, and the way he approaches Taekwondo. There are so many amazing character traits that Rydan has gained through this sport, and they’re ones that will help carry him through life’s trials and successes – courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and an indomitable spirit. Students learn those words, as well as their meanings, as soon as they begin TKD classes, and they recite them often. The smiling face you see below is worn by a young man who applies those character traits in and outside of the karate studio, and I couldn’t be any prouder of him. My not so little marshmallow is really growing up, and it’s such a cool thing to watch him make his way through life every day.



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