I Let My Son Fail Tonight

Written By: Kim - Apr• 01•11

My 13 year-old son had a red belt Tae Kwon Do test tonight. Four children received new belts but my son was not one of them. I let him fail because I ratted him out. Somewhere, Tiger Mother Amy Chua is having a cow.

If you are not familiar with this form of martial arts, each belt test requires the student to know the physical side of TKD: the forms, the kicks, and the crowd-pleasing breaking of the boards test. It is pretty amazing to watch someone break one-inch-thick board with their hand or foot. Breaking boards for TKD red belt test

The softer, but just as important, side of TKD belt tests requires the student to understand the purpose of TKD: the philosophy and objective of each belt, the tenants of TKD, the student oath and Korean terminology related to martial arts.

The belt test starts off with the softer side: How much do you know about why you are here and what is your responsibility with what you learn? Then the test moves in to: Show me what you got. After the moves, comes sparing.

Through osmosis, I have learned some things about TKD. I can count to 10 in Korean. I know what the student oath is and how many belts there are in our studio. But I never forget these three things about the belt tests:

  1. Your instructor does not ask you to test unless he or she thinks you are ready.
  2. He or she may ask you any question related to previous belts you have earned.
  3. If you are not prepared, you will fail.

When I reminded my son to study the previous belt information, his reply was, “Mom, Master Paul never asks me those questions. I don’t have to worry about it.”

So tonight before the test, I asked Master Paul to confirm what I thought I knew. You know teenagers always seem to find a way to make us feel dumb about something. He did confirm. I then told him that Connor had not studied the previous belt information. I ratted on my son. Do I feel bad? Hell yeah. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

When Master Paul asked my son what the blue belt objective was, he could not answer. He was wearing a belt yet had no idea what its, therefore his, objective was. When asked about the philosophy of the red belt, to which he wanted to be promoted, my son did not give an accurate answer. The final blow came when my son could not explain what the studio patch philosophy meant. Clearly all of this information is in the 16 page student handbook and can be asked at any time.

So, we watched as my son was told he would not be earning his red belt tonight. I was impressed that he maintained his composure through the rest of the test. We walked away without a belt nor a certificate.

There were some tears on the way home and more when he reached his bedroom. He even let me hug him for a minute. I told him that I was sorry he did not receive his belt yet. I told him he was smart and I was confident in his ability to pass. I told him to go study — this time for real.

The red belt objective is persistence.

The blue belt objective is responsibility.

My son learned both tonight. Finally.