Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Last Class Tradition

Like a few other schools, BTSD has a special tradition for students who are leaving. Everyone who comes to class that evening has the opportunity to spar that person for one last time as a way to bid them farewell.

Did I mention this is how we handle people who leave on good terms?

Now, before someone gets the wrong idea, I should point out that this is not meant to be a hazing or any sort of brutal method of scaring people into staying. The point is NOT to have to carry the person out of the room and set them on the curb. Still, it boils down to having to spar 20 of your closest pals consecutively. We line up from junior to senior and spar in that order. By the time you get to the old folks black belts, you're pretty much moving on instinct and sheer willpower.

It is a test of willpower and endurance, allowing you to see how much you've gained in your tenure. It is a test of your physical abilities and mental perseverance. But most importantly, it is a time to say goodbye.

Each person brings their own special attitude and method to Dae Ryun. Patient, methodical fighters who wait for you to trip up and feed you your mistakes; Crazy furious "kitchen sink" fighters who bring everything they can; Wrestlers, grapplers and more. Every time you work with them, they influence your outlook on dae ryun and you take something from that match. It becomes part of your portfolio either as something to incorporate, or something to watch out for.

That final match is your way of saying "You will never find someone else who spars like me. I am giving you my very best to take with you as a gift."

It's a hell of lot easier than being sad and missing how that person influenced your dojang. Part of the problem with running a college club is that the time it takes to get a black belt is roughly the same as the average undergraduate career. Just when the student gets interesting, gets to the "good stuff" in training, you have to say goodbye and hope you've given them the tools to continue on their path.

So while I wish Mr. Petrasek the best of luck with his future schooling and career, I am confident that our paths will cross again, and I know that he has been given the tools to truly "make it his own."

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