My family and I gathered today to watch my 11-year-old nephew Raine test for his high-red belt in Taekwando. Once again a good sampling from the community was present – not as many as were at Christian’s RTCC open house the other night, but still a good number. It was as if someone had cut a large slice of community pie and placed it in the old red schoolhouse on the Vermont Technical College campus.
At one time or other a good portion of the surrounding towns pass through the doors of Master Rotta’s Tae Kwan Do studio. Raine’s own siblings, Avery and Tori, presently take Taekwando. My nephew Adam and Christian both have as has my best friend’s husband and son. Today, a mother and son tested together as the father, a black belt, judged. Families sat in groups with video cameras and point-and-shoots as the spring rain steadily fell and a cold breeze blew through the windows.
My mother, brother, sister-in-law and I claimed one corner, huddled amidst the pile of pine boards my brother had purchased for Raine to break. When it was time, he came over to the corner and chose from among the stack a few choice boards. Then his friends held them while he spun and kicked, breaking the boards. He sparred and demonstrated his forms and we clapped and ohhed and ahhed. My mother worried that Raine would become dehydrated or get hurt, but he breezed through.
When Raine’s turn came to receive his new stripe, Master Rotta gave him a warm hug. I moved to the front of the room to snap a photo and Rose, one of the tellers from the local credit union, whose husband was also testing, told me it was okay to stand in front of her video camera as it was off at the moment.
Everyone seemed eager to help everyone else out. At this moment it was as if each person and their feats belonged to everyone in the room. And, in many ways they did. Each kick and block and broken board represented hours of practice and hours of toting kids to and from Master Rotta’s studio and even more hours of sitting and watching and cheering and as with any sport the spectators eventually feel caught up in the game as if they have a stake. They invested their hearts in this and as each kid or testing adult approached Master Rotta to receive their new belt or stripe, these very hearts swelled with pride.