Kwanjangnim caught me after class and demanded to know why I’m not tip testing.

“How much is it?” I asked.

“$70 and you need five before you can test for sam dan.”

I nodded. “OK, maybe, but I usually have plans on Saturday.”

“At 7:00 am? Testing for black belt is 7-9 am.” Drats. I shook my head and he went on, “You should be third dan by now. You need to learn third dan form.”

I didn’t tell him Special Forces has been teaching me the third dan form, but I did do the math in my head. I’m supposed to be sam dan, and I’m already supposed to be learning the form. Yet he wants me to take five tip tests at the cost of $70 a test and then pay several hundred for the school third dan and then pay several hundred more for the Kukkiwon (official) third dan.

Hey. Crazy idea. If I’m supposed to be third dan in your eyes, how about you don’t bleed me dry with bullshit “tip tests” and “school belts” and just make me test straight away for third dan.


I asked Special Forces what was required. I have to know the first and second degree forms (got it) and the “kicking sequence.”

I asked to see this kicking sequence. Front kick, side kick, roundhouse kick, crescent kick, high spinning kick followed by a low spinning kick, another crescent, a jumping and turning roundhouse followed by a jumping spinning kick.


I have been at this school for more than a year and never seen that sequence in my life. We’ve practiced a low spinning kick (where your hands and knees are on the ground) once the whole time I’ve been there. If it’s so important, then how come in more than a year of training, nobody has taught it to me and I’ve never even seen it?

And the worst part—the worst part—is that my experience living in Korea has molded me. It’s so hard to say “no” to him because he cornered me, he’s older, and he’s the school head.

I’ll say it again. Goddanit.