I finally got my black belt! ( Flying side kick conquered)


On June 11th, after more than 6 months of trying, I broke a board with a flying sidekick, and finally got my black belt in Taekwondo. It was glorious.

So here’s the back story. In October 2014, I took my black belt test. The intensity and difficulty of Taekwondo black belt tests vary by school, but it’s definitely a serious and grueling affair in my dojang. Our master is very old school in how he runs the dojang. For lack of a better term, he is a hard ass, and there is no getting around the fact that he will absolutely make you work for your black belt.

I had been practicing taekwondo in this school for close to six years by the time I applied for the black belt test. It usually doesn’t take that long for people to get their black belt in a martial art, especially if they train consistently (I had also practiced Taekwondo for several years when I was an adolescent, but when I joined this school I opted to start from white belt, the lowest rank). I know people who have gotten their black belt in two and a half years, which is considered pretty fast, but I think most people on average get their black belt in 4 years. Why did I take so much longer to get mine? Well I’m gonna be honest with y’all… I just didn’t have the determination and motivation. Being a black belt was always something I aspired to be, but I lacked the fiery passion needed to train intensely for 3-4 months before the test. Plus, I was too lazy to memorize the whole color belt curriculum that is included in the test.


I’m also not very competitive by nature, so the fact that a few people in the dojang who started after me already got their black belts didn’t really galvanize me to go hard so I could take the test. Competing against other people isn’t a reliable source of motivation for me, unless of course they make it personal, which hardly ever happens. In my school at least, no one ever said, Kim, ya loser, you’ve been here for more than six years, why aren’t you a black belt yet?

In the weeks leading up to my black belt test, I trained to increase my endurance and stamina as much as I could, if only to simply survive the 5-hour ordeal of the test. The black belt test in our school is legendary – it’s part mastery of all the kicking and striking techniques and part intense fitness test. About three hours of the test are spent doing boot camp style exercises: running, box jumps, squats, push ups, duck walks, lunges, mountain climbers, and burpees. It’s not uncommon for black belt test takers to pass out or puke.

I really didn’t want to pass out or puke during test day, so on the day of the test, I was in my best shape in years, in the sense that I could do intense cardio for hours and not die. And I didn’t. I was at the back of the pack during our 3.5 mile run, but we had people who were going for their second black belt dan who were marathon runners and triathletes, so whatevs. I was able to complete three sets of 100 box jumps, which I absolutely hate, without catching my toe on the box crate and falling. My quads were quivering for most of the 200+ squats. I was seeing double by the time we go to burpees. I survived it all without retching and completely passing out. There were a few times when my vision got dark around the edges, but I just stopped for a minute till it snapped back to normal. A banana kept the lactic acid build up at bay, enough to prevent dry heaving.

The black belt test is composed of 5 parts: fitness, poomsae (patterns), self defense, sparring, and breaking. The breaking is where the test taker has to break a wooden board using advanced kicking and hand striking techniques, chosen by the teacher. Aside from the intense fitness test from hell, the breaking portion was what I feared the most in this test. Mostly because the breaking kicks have to be FLYING kicks, and you don’t get to know which one you have to do until the moment you’re called up to the front. Guess what – I really suck at flying kicks.

The breaking I had to do was just a knife hand strike. Got it at the first try, no problem. The second one was a jumping front kick. Which basically meant a board was held up like 3 feet above the top of my head and I had jump straight up and break it with a front kick. It was crazy, but I somehow did it.

And then the last one. The flying side kick. The kick I knew I was probably going to fail if I had to do it. It’s not the most difficult kick in taekwondo by any means, but it would be the most difficult kick I personally would have attempted at this point. And now my passing of this test hinged on performing this kick perfectly, with all these people watching, and I had to break a wooden board with it to boot. I also had to “fly” (extend the kick) over 4 people curled up in a turtle position to make sure I cleared about 1.5 yards. If I didn’t, I would be stepping on someone’s neck or the middle of their back.

Can we say pressure? Yeah, let’s say pressure.

Long story short, I failed the flying sidekick. I couldn’t get enough height on my jump, I couldn’t clear enough distance, and my kicking form was totally off. It was kind of a disaster.


This is not me. This is Bruce Lee executing the flying side kick correctly.

It was a huge disappointment of course, but I couldn’t let it get me down. Giving up isn’t an option; in fact it would be absurd. The only option was to now train for this kick so I could retest for it in a couple of months.

So I did. With the help of a few of the people in my school, I practiced the flying sidekick after class a couple times a week.

January rolled around and one day during class Master C announced that I would do the retest for the black belt. Ok. We set up and did my running start, willing my legs to lift off the ground as high as it could go.

Fail again. Still didn’t jump high enough, not enough distance cleared, fell short of the target. Aaaarghh.

After that, it was a series of failed attempts at this flying sidekick. I kept practicing after class, and every 3 or 4 weeks or so, Master C would make me retest, and the same thing would happen.

It started to become A Thing in our school. Because I kept having to do it, everyone in the school had at one point witnessed me attempt to execute this kick and fail. Soon, each time I came to class people would ask me if I would be retesting today, how was my kick going, do I want help with holding the kicking pad after class? Each time I was given the test there would be this huge crowd and people would be cheering to encourage me. And each time, I would fall short, and it would be like


Needless to say, it was starting to get a bit embarrassing. And more than not a little frustrating.

I watched YouTube tutorials. I read Taekwondo manuals. I asked each Black Belt in the dojang how they execute this kick. I meditated and visualized breaking the board with this kick.

I practiced and practiced after class. It would hurt pretty bad sometimes, because doing a flying sidekick incorrectly basically means wrecking your kicking leg. The strain from practicing flying sidekicks affected my weightlifting..

Months and months went by. I kept trying. It started to become a source of anxiety for me. Why can’t I do this darn kick? I even cursed the fact that this kick was in the curriculum. The flying sidekick was designed, back in ancient times of course, to knock an opponent off a horse. I just could not imagine myself in a situation where someone on horseback was attacking me. Wtf.

But then, on June 11th 2015, I finally did it. Master C held up the board with one of the black belts, I yelled, I took a slowish running start, I jumped as high as I could, tucked in my legs, waited for a second, extended my right leg, and this time – my foot went through that board with a resounding crack.


The moment it happened, everyone watching erupted into loud cheers. I fistpumped a million times and hugged everyone in my class. Then we went for a celebration dinner.


Life lesson (totally cliché, but totally true): simply never give up when you’re going for a goal. It will get hard, you’ll get frustrated, mad, even embarrassed. But you just have to push through it and do it.


The Board That I Broke WIth My Very Own Foot, Flying Side Kick Style



It’s that time of the year again…!

getting tent ready

Took out the the tent today to air and sweep it out. Camping season is finally here!!! Our first camping trip starts this coming Saturday. I am SO excited. This one is gonna be epic.

First camping trip of the year means I have to take out all the camping gear and clean, sort, and take an inventory to figure out what else we need. I may be super messy but when it comes to my outdoor gear, I’m super meticulous. If you take care of your things, your things will take care of you. It’s going to be a busy week, with work and getting ready for the camping trip. But soon it’s going to be doing some of my favorite things – campfires! hikes! watching wildlife! sleeping in a tent! waking up in the outdoors! stargazing!

the best

Reasons Why It’s Easier to Be Healthy During Spring/Summer

Michigan winters, they can be rough. There’s a ton of snow, yes, but that’s not the worst thing about Michigan winters for me. It’s the weeks and weeks of dark, overcast days, when you don’t see the sun for days. I don’t think I actually have seasonal affective disorder or anything, but my energy is def. at its lowest during the winter months. With low energy, my motivation to exercise regularly, eat well, and get outdoors takes a nosedive too. I get a bad case of the winter blahs. All of these things just get stuck in a negative feedback loop of decreased energy, poor eating, and not giving a fuck.

But come late March, when the snow finally stops and everything begins to thaw – doing the whole health, fitness, and the great outdoors thing gets a whole lot easier. And fun.

It’s the Season for Adventure

Yes, there are people who run all through winter and people who go camping in the snow. I aint about that life. Sure skiing is awesome, but it’s prohibitively expensive to go more than a few times during a winter season, and there are just so many more outdoor activities in the summer. When May rolls around I’m already raring to go kayaking, camping, and hiking. Getting out there and enjoying the outdoors, it just makes me so happy, like I’m actually living, and life is good. I’m more likely not to stuff my face with processed chemical shitstorm junk food because I’m feeling like, connected to the earth and shit. So I’m more likely to eat whole foods because I feel all natural!

Gardening, Grow Your Own Food

spring garden michigan

I got kale, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, spring onions, zucchini and strawberries. Can’t wait for the harvest!

This year I planted my first vegetable garden in my adult life. I went the whole nine yards – I started seeds around February while it was still snowing in Michigan, put together a raised bed, got blended compost from the gardening supply store, transplanted in spring. It’s kind of magical, watching your plants grow. It’s practically meditative, tending to your plants. Every morning I go outside and do a little gardening. Watering, pulling weeds, stroking leaves, staring lovingly at the first fruit buds. Anyway, I CANT WAIT to eat these vegetables.

Composting, Turning Garbage into Black Gold

home compost

Garden trimmings and our typical produce scraps – banana peels, orange rinds, eggshells, kale stalks, carrot pulp from the juicer – they all get chucked here!

As soon as the weather warmed I made Kory build a compost bin (she’s so handy).  We are into keeping as much garbage out of landfills as much as possible, we recycle diligently, but composting is even better because you turn your garbage into a useful product. We go through a lot of produce so we generate a decent amount of plant kitchen scraps, and so it just goes into the compost pile, and in a couple/few months – it’ll go into the garden. Closed loop food system? Gettin pretty close. Composting is pretty rad, period.

More Sunlight &  Longer Days


Even Josie likes sunning

It’s so much easier to feel good about life when it’s sunny. When you’re not depressed because you haven’t seen sunlight in days, you don’t have to drag yourself to your workout. When I emerge from my pitch dark bedroom in the morning into the living room bathed in sunlight, I’m happy. When I’m happy, it’s easy to make good choices. When it’s warm and sunny I actually enjoy taking Josie out for a walk. Also, on Mondays and Wednesdays my taekwondo class starts at 7pm. During the winter I can’t bring myself to go then because it’s already dark when the class starts, and it just feels so late. But during summertime it’s still light out at the end of the class at 8:30pm. Thus I go to taekwondo more often.

Farmer’s Markets


There’s just something about going to the farmer’s market and getting your vegetables and fruits from the people who grew them. Being able to have a conversation with the grower about where the broccoli was grown and how bitter the beets are going to be  gives me this connection to my food that makes me more aware, and it just makes eating this food more meaningful. Eating locally is one of our things – I think it’s healthier to eat as close to home as possible, and more ecologically responsible, obv – and it’s mostly only possible to do this during farmer’s market season. Anyway, I really really enjoy going to the market. I like looking at all the beautiful fruit and veggies, seeing what’s in season, checking out the cool stuff that people in the community make- like soaps, candles, maple syrup, pastries. Going to the farmer’s market is  my Saturday morning ritual from late spring to early fall – and I come home with a week’s worth of local produce.

Sweet Fruits


Our fruit bowl, early June

The most delicious and sweetest fruits are in season in the summer/early fall. Mangoes, peaches, and pears – my top favorite fruits, fresh and in season at this time. And so many other delicious sweet things: oranges, cantaloupes, strawberries, grapes, cherries! Go to the supermarket or the farmer’s market and all that stuff is fresh and lots of the time on sale.  I think about how strawberries taste in February or eating peaches from a can. I just snatch them all up. It’s good eating in the summer.

I’m not saying that my health and fitness efforts are perfect during spring and summer. But compared to winter, it’s definitely a whole lot easier. This summer I’m determined to make it a fun, healthy, adventure-filled season!