This last promotion was particularly special for me; perhaps not for the obvious reasons. Yes, achieving the rank of 4th Dan is becoming an “International-level” Instructor. Mastering all the techniques, forms, and one-steps, are some of the requirements of this test. These are in place so that our students can be taught properly. I expected that drawing on 35 years of Tae Kwon Do training would help me prepare for this advancement. What I didn’t expect, however; was that I needed to start from scratch for this test. Back to a white belt? No, due to age-related hip issues, I needed to learn how to walk again! Fortunately, hip replacement surgery is quite routine these days. Walking comes back fairly quickly, albeit with crutches; stairs a bit later. Kicks? no way; I couldn’t even try one until six months after surgery. After appropriate rehab and time, however; I did start to re-master some other everyday activities. Biking, running and tennis were possible again. Finally, it was time to get back to Tae Kwon Do: front kicks; not too bad; roundhouse kicks and side-kicks; no way; too much pain and tightness. Forget about any turning kicks. I was truly a white- belt again; pretty far from the 4th Dan test. Strangely enough, starting over in Tae Kwon Do was sort of appealing to me. It was a selfish thought; it was a break from being a role model and instructor. Instead, it was an opportunity to focus on myself. After six more months of training, with significant help of teachers and friends, I was able to kick somewhat again. Not like before, but I was okay with that. As I have aged, I already learned that I needed to make modifications and concessions (from when I was 25) to protect myself from injuries. Again, with lots of hard work and significant help from teachers and friends, I finally was able to test for 4th Dan…successfully! Overall, my journey felt like it was one and a half-steps back, two-steps forward. No matter what the pathway was, it’s not something I could have made without the help of others. In fact, that’s the case for any promotion. You need the guidance and support of teachers and friends. Now that I’ve re-experienced this trip from white to black belt and beyond, I’m pretty excited about being in the position again to help others move along their pathway in Tae Kwon Do; mostly forward I hope.
Ilya Bruklich 4th Dan
After a while, testing for another rank, to somebody who likes martial arts, takes on a different meaning. It is nice, of course, to be, to some degree, acknowledged. It is very much appreciated to be told by Mr. Kim that you deserve it. But there is no more flashiness to it ( if there ever was), no need to prove anything to anybody – it is life taking its course, and you do what you love, and if you do it long enough and put your heart in to it – promotion tests do happen once in a while. And you take the opportunity, if offered. This one wasn’t easy, especially the research part of it, but, with the help of people around me, I survived. I’d like to thank everybody who consciously helped me, and everybody I made a subject of a study – thank you. Now, back to work.