We had a good night at Northwind.
Some of our students are preparing for their Chodan exam this spring, so we spend the day in a physically moderate and mentally challenging session.
We reviewed the Gup curriculum.
All of it.
Another way of saying basics, and a better term in my opinion, is the fundamentals. The gup curriculum is the foundation on which all the rest of our art will be built.
Everyone showed great mudo. A student who was too sick to participate showed up to take notes so she wouldn’t fall behind preparing for their black belt. Those doing forms went through everything, not just to run through, but reviewing, tweaking, and looking for the detail work that marks a beginner from a student.
(Black Belt is Chodan, or first step, the beginning of training, not the end.)
Today reminded me of my first tri-state invitational tournament (TKD). I asked the leader of the school’s team which form I should compete in, and he said I could do whatever you want. To paraphrase Mr. Bill Hannah’s response: “You can do Chun Gi Hyung if you’re a black belt, if you really want to, but if you’re going to do that form, you have to show everyone there that you have mastered every detail like a black belt.”
That principle applies to Haidong Gumdo as well. The requirement for a Chodan test isn’t simply Gyukgum and Gumbup Pal Bon with Defense Focus 2. It’s everything up to and including those final pieces of the Gup curriculum. Then, after a successful test, a Chodan is supposed to be able to perform those forms at a high level of mastery on demand, pretty much for as long as they continue in the martial arts.
That isn’t mere drudgery. I learned General Choi’s first TKD form, Chun Gi Hyung, back in 1988, and every time I do the form, if I am thinking about it, there’s something to concentrate on, something that could always be a hair better. That’s after twenty-five years of doing the form, to say nothing of the forms that come after it. God willing and I’m able to do Haidong Gumdo twenty-five years from now, I hope that I can still find ways to tweak and improve Ssangsu Gumbup Sam Bon or Chil Bon.
On the reverse side, I’ve seen Chodans stumble at Gup level forms in front of high ranking masters, and they received no slack at all. It was called arrogant not to keep training the lower forms, as if they had become too good for them.
Put it together, and reviewing the basics has all of the advantages and none of the pitfalls of training. When the region’s masters get together for training, it’s always the basics first, and only then more advanced material.
Knowing that, and trying to share it, makes review days worthwhile. I can’t wait until the next one!