In August of 2004 I signed up for a Tae Kwon Do class at my work place. I had hoped to continue something I had briefly attempted back in the mid-90's which I had quit shortly before qualifying for my first belt-test. Sometimes it's difficult to remember exactly why I had quit; there are several events in my life which seemed to happen so swiftly I can't recall any details. I hope to avoid this in the future by continuing a log of my progress.
I seem to remember my left hip hurting from the kicks
they had me trying. I am not really all that fond of
pain. Soon after starting my TKD journey I rediscovered
that pain. It was again in my hips, mainly in my left.
It was difficult to determine exactly where the pain
originated from, but it is either the ball-and-socket
or the tendons, muscles and ligaments. I have been pressing
forward in hope that the pain will abate over time
as my muscles strengthen and it indeed appears to have
I am a trim guy in my mid-30's now, but being a
web-programmer doesn't give me much cause to get any
exercise, so my muscle mass is practically nonexistent.
I was a fairly successful cross-country runner in High
School and the fastest 2-mile runner in my U.S. Army basic-training
company, but I now run only to avoid rain drops now.
I needed a crash course in pain, and I came to the right
My instructors, Ms. Hillhouse and Mr. Smith, are second degree black belts who trained under Master Roy Kurban of Arlington, Texas. They, at the time of this writing, are actually employees of my workplace and train me with no compensation (a HUGE reason I signed up for the class; it was free)! They are experienced perfectionists whose caring nature brings them back 3 hours a week on average; evening classes are available if we so desire (my family schedule rarely allows for this though I would be there if it were prudent).
Master Kurban, I am discovering, has had quite a exciting journey through Martial Arts. His competitive career began in 1966 and continued until 1977 , during which time he won one hundred and seventeen awards in national and international competitions. Just a few of his titles include: 1970 Southwest Black Belt Champion , 1971 Central North American Champion , 1972 United States Champion , 1973 All American Grand Champion , 1974 Member of the International Championship Team , 1975 Four Seasons National Champion , and 1976 US Tournament of Champions Heavyweight Champion. Roy Kurban ranked in the Top 10 fighters in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years, and among the Top 10 in the World for two years. Official Karate Magazine named him as their "Man of the Decade" in their 1980 Legion of Honor . Karate Illustrated Magazine chose him as the Outstanding Tournament Referee in the U.S. in 1980. In 1981 Black Belt Magazine inducted him into their Hall of Fame as the "Man of the Year". (more info available here)
Here is a picture of Roy Kurban as he was back in "the day"; the caption would read "Bill Wallace (left) jams a kick thrown by Texas champion Roy Kurban." Here is a picture of Roy Kurban as he appears today.
The best thing I can say of my instructors was said by Master Kurban himself at the conclusion of my Orange-belt test, when he said our company's satellite class was "becoming a force to be reckoned with". Of the twenty-or-so testers that day, only two scored "excellent"; both from our satellite school.
My Belt Tests
White: Beginning Belt
This is the first belt
you get. No sense in testing your inability to perform this
Martial Art, it means you are a Karate virgin!
Gold: Beginning Belt
Requirements: 1 Month of instruction
My first belt test,
held on Sept. 10th, 2004 was a breeze, though at the time
I don't believe I thought so. It was conducted with two
other company employees and three young girls from the American
Black Belt Academy in Arlington, Texas. My flexibility (or
lack thereof) kept my spin kicks awkward and I tended to
throw my arms out during the execution of the moves. That
combined with one of the schools toughest graders (Mrs.
Bennett) denied me an Excellent score, though my co-kicker
Robert Kalaj received an excellent! I don't have a problem
being graded tough; it makes me a better martial artist.
- Excellent score!
Requirements: 2 Months as a Gold Belt
My Orange Belt
test, held at ABBA on Nov. 12th, 2004 really scared me.
I had an upset stomach for the majority of the day and didn't
calm down until I was warming up on the floor an hour
before the test. Master Kurban, who calls out commands
from a central location surrounded by black-belt graders,
threw me off (and Robert as well) by starting us out
with a Side Step Reverse Punch rather than our pre-conceived
Reverse Punch, so by the time we were asked to perform
our reverse punch, we were throwing Back Fists!! How
embarrassing! The video my wife shot (from which the
images on this page were taken) show in all its gory
detail my failings. So when Master Kurban returned from
grading our scores and said everyone had passed, but
there were only two Excellent scores, I was so happy
just to have passed! Imagine my shock when Master Kurban
called out "
of our Excellent scores, Wil Dobson!
video bounced around a bit from my wife's excitement,
but you can clearly make out my double-take!
- Excellent score!
Requirements: 3 Months as a Orange Belt
My Green Belt test, held at ABBA on Feb. 25th, 2005 was
completed on schedule even through I spent the last six
weeks in a cast because of a broken thumb; I tested wearing
my plastic cast. My mobility sucks anyway, I though
it best to protect it. The pins were removed
only a week earlier and I had just began Occupational
Therapy to regain mobility and strength in my hand and
wrist. Both Robert Kalaj and I were testing from our
satelite school; there was also a 6 year old girl who
tested with us. Frankly, she was amazing; I mean, for
a little kid, she showed power and snap. She obviously
knew the stuff, because as I watched the video of our
test, she was the one who didn't mess up anything; even
a front snap kick / offensive side kick (a very awkward
kicking combination). All three of us recieved
"excellent" scores. I spoke with my grader
Mr. Sackett afterwards (2003 Eagle Award Winner),
and he said I had an excellent belt test and that he
was forced to grade at an advanced belt level because
he needed things to advise and comment on. I can't wait
to see the report-card. I only just today figured out
I could possibly be a brown belt by the end of this year
if I kept at it. That would be very cool. My nerves?
Well, I did well when I either didn't think about it,
or I convinced myself that I actually *do* rule the karate
universe. Tests end far quicker than you might think.
Blue: Intermediate Belt
Requirements: 3 Months as a Green Belt
My Blue Belt test, held at ABBA on May 20th, 2005 was the
wierdest test yet. First of all, it doesn't start out as
my first few did; this test begins with a series of punching
combinations and some kicking combos. Hardly a moments rest
before the 3 kata's come. I don't recall there being anything
I wasn't able to do. After our Forms, we were told to suit
up for sparring. While my co-worker Robert was sparring,
I hear one of the grading instructors yell out to Robert
"Lets go Mr. Dobson". Hey, that's my name! Mr. Smith, my
school instructor who was sitting next to that grading instructor
that I was "Mr. Dobson" and that guy out fighting was "Mr.
Kalaj". The Grader felt very bad; she had been grading my
test while watching Robert! OH NO!
So Robert was graded twice; I still get the grading card
sent to me with the belt certificate, but any comments
and scores on it aren't mine. They obviously couldn't give
me an Excellent Score since they technically didn't see
me do exceedingly well or anything in detail. I was definately
expecting an excellent score though, and it really bummed
me out that I wouldn't be continuing my streak. This wasn't
my fault and I really was there for the Belt, not the proverbial
A+. I just expect the best from myself; I simply must
remember that I did my stuff as right as anyone there if
not better, regardless if any graders saw me do it or not.
My big thrill of the evening was when Master Kurban, impressed
during my first sparing bout (versus Jace), said something
like "Wow, hes got some fast kicks". When Master Kurban
presented me my belt and shook my hand, he told me "Wil,
with those legs no man will withstand your kicks. They
were very fast; very impressive."
Now that this test is
over, I have time for a little rest my bruised ribs (earlier
injury). No belt tests for 3 months and no tournaments
for the next 4 weeks.
- Excellent score!
Requirements: 3 Months as a Blue Belt
My Purple Belt Test was held on the 25th of August, 2005.
It occurred a day before Master Kurban was awarded his
Grand Master Certificate by Grand Master Won Chik Park.
You can check out the coverage of it (audio and images)
Surprisingly, I did receive and "Excellent" score for my
test. I haven't seen my grade paper and comments yet, but
after watching the DVD of the test and listening to the
advice I got from the observing black belts, I need to:
1. Keep my hands up when fighting, 2. slow down on
my forms and 3. start using more combinations in my fights.
My knee is pretty messed up yet, since the last tournament;
it really affects my jump kicks and fights. I seem to
have strained the ligament in a knee I wont mention in
case my arch-nemesis from the tourney read this and decides
to kick me there. Speaking of Arch-Nemesi, hey BRIAN, if
you want that picture of you and Master Kurban,
Its been almost 3 months and it still isn't better.
Maybe I should be fighting!? Duh. I told myself I would
take a week off (thats 3 classes) to see if it gets any
better. I suppose it helps me tremendously going to class
3 times a week while at work. Only two more tourneys
this year, and I am
for Old Intermediate Men.
I will be working extra hard to win that Eagle Award!
Brown (4th): Advanced Belt
Requirements: 4 Months as a Purple Belt
Tentatively scheduled for: end of December, 2005
Brown (3rd): Advanced Belt
Requirements: 4 Months as a 4th Brown Belt
Tentatively scheduled for: end of April, 2006
Red (2nd): Advanced Belt
Requirements: 4 Months as a 3rd Brown Belt
Tentatively scheduled for: end of August, 2006
Red (1st): Advanced Belt
Requirements: 4 Months as a 2nd Red Belt
Tentatively scheduled for: end of December, 2007
Deputy Dan (Bo Dan): Advanced Belt
Requirements: 6 Months as a 1st Red Belt
Tentatively scheduled for: end of June, 2007
Black Belt (1st Degree):
Requirements: 6 Months as a Deputy Dan
Tentatively scheduled for: end of Dec, 2008
Traditional Karate League, 2004
November 20th - Arlington, Texas
1st Place Kata (Executive Beginners)
Did not compete in Kumite
Traditional Karate League, 2005 Championship
April 9th - Kennedale, Texas
2nd Place Kata (Executive Intermediate)
3rd Place Kumite (Executive Intermediate)
Traditional Karate League, 2005
May 14th - Crowley, Texas
1st Place Kumite (Executive Intermediate)
2nd Place Kata (Executive Intermediate)
Traditional Karate League, 2005
June 18th - Mansfield, Texas
2st Place Kumite (Executive Intermediate)
2nd Place Kata (Executive Intermediate)
Traditional Karate League, 2004 Championship Series - My first tournament was held on Nov. 20th, 2004 in Arlington Texas. I had agreed to spend the $45 for the price of competing mainly because I had the money to burn and any scores gained went towards the American Black Belt Academy. I brought my digital camcorder and digital camera to get some photos for the ABBA web site (of which I am now the webmaster for) and spent 99.8% of my time there watching the talented martial artists compete in Forms and Sparring.
I was in the "executive beginners" group (being
both OLD of age and NEW of skill) so thought I should be
able to do well against the other old-beginners; I was fortunate
to score 9.3, 9.3, 9.3 and
win the first place trophy for my division! The competition?
Mainly gentlemen (two Gold belts) who were more worried
about the moves of their Katas rather than the snap and
power put into those moves. They will get better with experience
and a good instructor.
Master Kurban was kind enough to watch me compete and congratulated me on my victory. He said something to the effect of "An Orange Belt last week, and first place today! That thing [the trophy] is going to get lonely, you had better find it a mate." I assured him I would be back for more and thanked him for the fine instructors I have.
I did not sign up for sparring competition as I have yet to put on all of my gear and actually throw a kick or punch at anyone; even in practice. I had never even seen competition sparring before this event, only belt test sparring which is non-stop contact for 2 minutes at a time. I was concerned I would dishonor myself and my school with uncontrolled, illegal strikes and kicks. It is possible I was afraid as well, I don't know. I do now, however, wish I had competed. The process of point-based sparring is pretty simple. Get out there and strike a blow to a point location before your opponent does and make sure you do it in a controlled fashion, visible to each judge who all have to confirm the strike before the point is awarded. Ah well, next time. I know I will not have truly shown my Karate skills until I have sparred.
The 2004 Tournament season was closed and Eagle Award winners
were announced. I recieved a State Champion certification
stating I had finished the tournament year within the Top
10 (7th place).
Traditional Karate League, April 9th, 2005 -
Location is Kennedale High School, in Kennedale Texas. I
started out the year as an Intermediate belt (green). This
should work out well for the season; I won't have an opportunity
to become an Advanced belt until December 2005.
I had quite a fun time. I took 2nd place after tieing for
1st against someone in a Japanese martial art. My katas were
Paegwe E-Jang (Form #2) and Paegwe Sahm-Jang (Form #3). My
fighting was terrible; it was like the clash (crash) of two
beginners (err, it was I suppose since the two of us hadn't
sparred in competition before). Our match ended with a score
of 13 to 14! I attempted to give him a push out of the ring
with a front snap kick but he spun around for a turn kick
just as I moved forward and he gained a point for my foul
to the middle of his back.
This places me in a tie for 2nd place for intermediate executive
men (seasonal score). I expect myself to take first in
Kata in June and at least do better in fighting. I never
even got to fight more than once (and no warm-ups either).
There must be a better way.
Traditional Karate League, May 14th, 2005 -
Location is Crowley High School in Crowley Texas. I wasn't
so nervous this tourney; I figured I could only do my best
in the short 2 and a half minutes of actual action I might
be involved in. I have plenty of video to capture in the
meantime so don't have much time to get nervous. My form
was Paegwe El-chong (Form #1). I performed it not to the
best of my ability, but as good as I perhaps ever have under
pressure. I took a 2nd place medal for that.
I was able to win my first match against the same green-belt gent who took me
out last month. I came on strong after a few jabs to the face to win with a
9 - 2 score (sparring ends after either 2 minutes or there is a 7 point spread
between the combatants).
My second match was against someone from another style (Japanese I think). He
was a blue belt and seemed rather calm; I smoked him with 7 - 0 to take the GOLD!
(Whoohoo! That was serious fun)
This places me in first place for Intermediate Executive Men (seasonal score).
Traditional Karate League, June 18th, 2005 -
Location is Summit High School in Mansfield Texas. I performed
Sa Chang for my form (taking Silver) and took Silver in fighting.
I was defeated by Brian Wall, who took Silver in the last
tourney. I messed up my knee I later found out. It didn't
hurt until the next day, and seeing the doctor only told
me I had sprained something. Big help there Doc! I have been
unable to perform spin kicks with my leg since.
I still lead the Executive Intermediate Men now by 3 points.
I have been averaging 8 points per tournament.