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This is me...a happy wife, mom to three awesome boys, teacher to the aforementioned boys (we homeschool), chauffeur to karate, archery and swim team practices, scrapbooker and founder of the Good Grief Blog.
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Monday
Jul242017

Black Belt Essay

I realized that I never mentioned that both boys had to write an essay as part of their black belt testing. The essay should answer these questions:

  • What does Black Belt excellence mean? (Name some specific area in which you are striving for this excellence.)
  • What does Black Belt excellence mean to you, personally?
  • Why do you want to be a Black Belt?
  • What benefits have you achieved from training at Karate West?
  • What is your next goal?

For the sake of having it somewhere, here are their essays.

(For each, I typed it as he dictated it initially and did correct grammar in places, but the language and thoughts belong to each boy. These are after some drafts. Personally, I'm thrilled by that alone...that they each embraced going through the editing process, as historically that's been something they've resisted during our writing lessons.)

 

BLACK BELT ESSAY

by Micah Probst
age 11
July 2017 

In many ways, my black belt journey has been like the story of the Jamaican bobsled team in the movie “Cool Runnings.”

First. Just like the Jamaican bobsled team, I had to get started. They found a coach and I found Karate West. I was just four years old and mostly I just wanted to have fun with my big brother, Asher. Back then, I looked a little ridiculous. My mom says I looked like a baby bird trying to fly away when I did jumping jacks. I’d bet the bobsled team looked pretty silly trying to bobsled in Jamaica, too. We both made our fair share of mistakes.

As the bobsled team kept practicing, so did I. Over the years, I’ve had a number of great instructors who have all taught me new things and helped me improve my skills. Along the way, I’ve also made a lot of friends. Talking with them and laughing with them and watching them has helped make karate feel more like a home away from home. 

Second. Eventually, the bobsled team managed to get everyone into the sled and stay there…after more than a few tries, they figured out the right technique. Likewise, I got old enough to go beyond just going through the motions. I started learning how it was supposed to look. I joined the demo team and started really focusing on the details to make it look good. I worked on my self control and learned the value of exercise.

Third. The bobsled team packed their bags and boarded a plane to Canada for the Olympics, and I got a piece of paper telling me that I was eligible to start my black belt training. At first, I wasn’t sure I was ready to start. I spent a good many hours laying in bed thinking about whether I wanted to do it. Finally, I decided it was a step I wanted to take…to prove to myself that I can commit to something and follow through. I saw it as an opportunity to go further in my martial arts skills. So I chose to take the next step in my training by embarking on my black belt journey. After all, Bruce Lee once said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

Fourth. In Canada, the Jamaican bobsled team faced some obstacles and had to persevere. People didn’t think they belonged there and doubted them…they didn’t have the best equipment like everyone else…and they weren’t familiar with that environment. In spite of all that, they kept going. 

I’ve faced obstacles, too. Mostly, I struggle with self control. This plays out in two ways. In my head, self doubt causes me to question whether I should even be doing this. With my body, I’m learning how to keep my anger from triggering poor decisions. 

Finally. In case you don’t remember the movie, the bobsled team had a poor run…then a great run (which earned them lots of fans)…and then an even better run, right up until they crashed. But the story doesn’t end there (and hopefully I don’t crash). The bobsled team made the choice to get up and finish the race no matter what. They picked up their sled and carried it across the finish line to the applause of the crowd. They realized that a medal didn’t matter nearly as much as the journey, and they earned the respect of their peers. By becoming part of that community, they were able to push themselves even further and came back to the next Olympics as equals.

Like them, I’ve been trying to focus less on comparing myself to others and more on becoming a better me. When I first started this training, I thought I just wanted the black belt…and I’ll be proud to have the title of black belt, definitely. But I’m even more proud that, like the Jamaican bobsled team, I’ve realized that my self worth isn’t tied to a prize or a title but is shaped by the knowledge and principles gained along this journey. By continuing my training, I’ll learn even more and be pushed by my peers to go further. Eventually, I hope to give back by teaching others. 

Peace be the journey.

 

Black Belt Essay

by Asher Probst
age 13
January 2016

It’s all about the pants. 

Five and a half years ago, I started at Karate West with white pants. I didn’t know much and had little control over myself. I just came because it was something that looked like fun. 

Thanks to joining the demo team, I was able to get black pants sooner than others. And now I realize it’s much more than just something to do. It’s about obtaining Black Belt Excellence…gaining higher skills and knowledge and always trying to get better. Black Belt Excellence means being someone who practices the principles of the Black Belt; and, for me personally, it means a significant step forward in my journey at Karate West. It means remembering that learning is more valuable than winning or being perfect.

Through my time wearing both white and black pants, I’ve increased my self control, learned lots of karate, made new friends, gained performance experience at tournaments and with demo team, displayed perseverance as I had to exercise patience through various injuries, and learned the importance of practice. 

Now, I’m looking forward to blue pants. I want to be a Black Belt because it’s a more recognizable achievement. People understand what a Black Belt means, when they don’t always know the other belts. Also, being a Black Belt will allow me to attend new classes with people who also are dedicated to doing their best. Being around people who also want to do their best challenges me to do even better. Given this, I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my self control. I especially want to work on doing better with taking instruction and not letting my emotions in the moment override what I know to be right. 

My next goal is red pants. As I work toward becoming a second degree Black Belt, I hope to use the principles of the Black Belt to help me excel in my studies and life. Speaking of these principles, let me lay them out for you:

  • With HUMILITY, I know that I always have more to learn.
  • With COURTESY, I hope to be a contributing part of my community.
  • With INTEGRITY, I will follow the rules and be honest.
  • With PERSEVERANCE, I will continue to push forward even when there are set backs.
  • With SELF CONTROL, I will work on gaining better control over my emotions.
  • With INDOMITABLE SPIRIT, I will strive to do the right thing without bowing to peer pressure or outside influences. 

Most of all, Karate West has taught me that ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING…no matter what color pants I’m wearing. 

Sunday
Jul232017

Promotion Day!

Whew. Yesterday was the big day...that we've been working toward since March. Micah officially earned and received his black belt!!

Technically, the belt was earned during the two testing nights so the promotion was an opportunity to show off what the candidates know for family and friends...which means, for Micah at least, it was considerably more fun. :) 

Here are some pictures...(I haven't gotten through all of them yet)...

Throughout the promotion, they ran through a sampling of everything the candidates tested on. This was Micah doing his musical form.

Between things, the demo team also performed. (Here are Asher and Micah doing the universal bo form.)

I don't have pictures (yet) of the forms and combinations and one steps and grab defenses. But here's Asher and Micah sparring. (They did five one minute rounds during the promotion (rotating so that each boy got a break every so often) instead of the six two minute rounds during the testing (without a break). Micah says it was considerably more fun, lol.)

And, at the end, they had simultaneous matches of each candidate spar against his older, black belt sibling...which was quite entertaining:

And, finally, new uniforms and belts were awarded:

Hugging Mrs. Yee:

...and, as he moved down the line of black belts to be congratulated, getting lifted and hugged by Asher:

(I have to interject here that I'm so delighted by the bond these two boys have...such good brothers and true friends!)

A quick family picture:

And a very smiley Micah once we got home (having immediately tried on the pants to go with the rest of the uniform):

Ta da!!

A giant thank you to all who've helped and encouraged along the way!!

(In case you're wondering, we're in no way done with karate. Both Asher & Micah will continue to go on a regular basis...now learning the black belt forms and whatnot and working toward that second degree black belt down the road. So very appreciative of all we have gained and continue to gain through our experience at Karate West!)

Saturday
Jul222017

Thursday and Friday

Blarg. I'm falling behind because things happened quickly. ;P So, I'll try to add this before I need to go finish other stuff for this afternoon (which will get its own blog post).

Thursday night, Micah had his second (final) testing day for black belt. It was the big one...going through all of their one step and grab defenses (Asher got thrown around and punched and kicked a lot, lol) multiple times...and then sparring. The sparring is the part that gets to all black belt candidates. Each candidate must spar 6 two minute rounds consecutively, without breaks. They typically bring in other black belts (and higher degree black belts) to do the sparring. Given the age and size of Micah and one of the other boys testing, there was a need for smaller people, so some high brown belts (just lower than black belt) and brown belts were brought in as well.

When it was Micah's turn (and remember, this is all after an hour of throwing their partners and going through all their other self defense stuff), he ended up sparring a high brown belt, one of the other black belt candidates, and Asher (who's a black belt). (Coincidentally, each of the candidates this time around had at least one older sibling who is already a black belt...and each of them got to spar that sibling, lol. I think Micah actually got the best end of that deal, as he and Asher are such good friends and closer in size than the other sibling sets.)

The fourth round for each candidate was a two-on-one situation, and Micah was up against a black belt and a second degree black belt. Then Micah had another round against a black belt and a final round against a second degree black belt. Whew.

So proud of my boy for surviving! :) In all seriousness, he did a superb job of overcoming his inner little voices of doubt and really getting a handle on self control for this whole testing process. 

Here are all three boys after the testing was finished:

Yeah, a little (incredibly) sweaty. ;) (This is why I buzzed Micah's hair last weekend, lol.)

Normally, after the testing, candidates would have a little over a week to recuperate before the promotion, but circumstances this time around were such that the promotion got moved to today...meaning they only had yesterday (Friday) off. But...Micah had wanted to take the others to Loveland Laser Tag to celebrate being done with testing (which we'd originally planned for next week before one of the family's schedules changed everything) so we did that yesterday. They may not have been moving as quickly as normal, but they had a blast:

(Asher and friend, both in the "back" above were partners during the testing process...the ones who got thrown and punched and kicked and sparred. Plus four of these five are all on demo team together.) I love how much they enjoy spending time together and how truly well behaved they are.

And, after more than four hours doing that, everyone had a couple hours break before they met up again for the 6pm class at karate so that they could find out whether or not they passed the testing. (Again, this is something that wouldn't normally have happened so soon but it was the only class between the testing and the rescheduled promotion.) 

Fortunately, all three passed! Here's Micah after receiving his white stripe (wrapped on his belt to indicate that he's promoting):

Much happiness all around!

After class, my guys (and most of the others in the above picture) stayed another hour and a half for demo team practice, as they had to figure out which routines to do today since they're short two members (who had planned to be back in time for the promotion before the promotion got moved).

And now I must go finish getting ready for the promotion! More soon!!

Wednesday
Jul192017

Here

Still here. ;) Just keeping busy with stuff like...

- Noah building steps for our back patio.

 
(I had Noah take the picture for me since the stairs weren't screwed down and I didn't feel like going out the front and walking around to the back yard.) It's coming right along and will hopefully be done by the end of the month. :)

- Planning the coming school year. Just lots of looking at stuff and hemming and hawing and purging and reorganizing, lol. I'm getting closer... ;) Will definitely be posting more about that in the coming month.

- Micah testing for his black belt. This one's been the main focus of late. He's been training specifically since March, but the last couple weeks have been stepped up a bit...with extra swimming sessions for cardio, finishing up his required essay, and rearranging things on the calendar to fit everything in. (The actual promotion date got moved up due to one of the other families, which has meant shuffling a number of things.)

And then, last night, he had his first night of testing. They split the testing up into two nights. On the first night, they do: 

  • all of their forms (I think 10 forms each with roughly 20-30 steps...they do each of them at least twice and about half of them another time or two or three)
  • all 24 of their combinations (five times each on each side, so 240 repetitions...and each combination involves multiple parts...for instance, one combination is double punch, turn round kick, spin crescent kick, touch round kick, tornado kick, spin hook kick)
  • and an individual weapons or musical form (each boy did a different form, Micah's is a musical form)

It takes a bit. ;) 

(Micah is the one at the far end, with the red stripe down his pants.) All three boys have been doing this together for years, generally promoting at the same time, and are good friends. They all did a truly fantastic job!

They've been instructed to rest today. :) Tomorrow will be the second day of testing...with all of their one-steps, grab defenses and sparring. It'll take longer and be more physically taxing. Fingers crossed! :)

So. That's mostly what we're up to around here.

Tuesday
Jul112017

Types...take two

So, about four years ago, I posted this. A few days ago, Noah and Micah happened upon a personality quiz site and we all ended up taking it. We're kinda geeks like that. :) Given that, I figured I'd share how things changed ever so slightly...

Nathan: was INTP (Architect)...now is INTP-A (The Logician)

Me: was ISTJ (Inspector)...now am ISFJ-A (The Defender)

Noah: was INTJ (Mastermind)...now is INTP-A (The Logician)

Asher: was ISFJ (Protector)...now is ISTJ-A (The Logistician)

Micah: was ENFJ (Teacher)...now is ENFP-T (The Campaigner)

You'll notice that Nathan didn't change...and now Noah and Nathan are the same...and Asher and I switched...and Micah continues to be the only extrovert. :)

For the sake of thoroughness, I also enjoyed the explanations of the categories this time. The main ones were all described as IDENTITY groups...

Introverted vs Extraverted (I or E): This one remains pretty self explanatory. The write up talked about this being the category that determines how we approach the outside world...with extroverts seeking out the external world for stimuli and recharging, while introverts prefer to rely on themselves and are more generally comfortable alone. We all tended to be rather strong as either an introvert or extrovert...not near the middle. 

Intuitive vs Observant (N or S): This one deals with how you see the world and what kind of information you focus on. Those in the Intuitive camp are more interested in ideas and possibilities, while those in the Observant camp focus more on observable things and the present. Here, Nathan and I were a bit stronger along our respective sides of the scale (72%ish) while the boys were all pretty close to the middle.

Thinking vs Feeling (T or F): This one deals with how we make decisions and cope with emotions. Those in the Thinking category seek logic and rational arguments, doing their best to shield their emotions from the outside world. People with the Feeling trait, meanwhile, follow their emotions and would rather cooperate than compete, though they'll fight for what they believe in. In this category, all of us were very close to the middle except for Micah. :)

Judging vs Prospecting (J or P): This one determines how we approach planning and available options...our attitude toward certainty and structure. People with the Judging trait prefer clarity and closure, as if having a mental checklist, and emphasize work ethic and responsibility. Prospecting types are more relaxed and always scanning for opportunities and options, focusing on what makes them happy or interested over what might be expected of them. I scored very strongly in this category, while everyone else was closer to the middle (with Nathan being the furthest from me on the spectrum). 

You'll notice that the test we took most recently had one more letter on the end...an A or a T...Assertive vs Turbulent. This was an extra category dealing with how confident we are in our abilities and decisions. In the description, Assertives are more self-assured and resistant to stress...less likely to spend time dwelling on the past. Turbulent individuals are more self-conscious and emotional...perfectonistic and eager to improve.

Beyond all of that, the test broke down groups with shared traits into four role groups and four strategy groups. 

ROLES: (in a nutshell)

  • Analysts (-NT-): These types embrace rationality and impartiality, being fiercely independent and utilitarian. Nathan and Noah both are analysts. ;) 
  • Diplomats (-NF-): Diplomats focus on empathy and cooperation, often playing the role of harmonizers. Micah is a diplomat.
  • Sentinels (-S-J): Sentinels are cooperative and highly practical, embracing order and willing to take on difficult tasks. Asher and I are sentinels. 
  • Explorers (-S-P): These are the most spontaneous group, being utilitarian and practical and quick to think and react. None of us fell in this category.

STRATEGIES: (again in a nutshell)

  • Confident individualism (I---A): These types prefer doing things alone, believe in personal responsibility and have high self-confidence.
  • People mastery (E---A): These types seek social contact, are confident in their abilities and have good communication skills.
  • Constant improvement (I---T): Constant improvers are quiet, individualistic types who tend to be perfectionistic and to worry about their performance.
  • Social engagement (E---T): This last type tends to be restless, perfectionistic and emotional, placing a lot of importance on other people's opinions and eager to succeed in everything they do.

Micah fell into the last category while all of the rest of us were in the first.

So. That's us. It's pretty spot on. ;) I've read through all of the descriptions and am finding that it's useful insight into these boys of mine...working now on how to incorporate that knowledge into our lives and school year...