Martial Arts Promotion Exam Was A Test of Children’s Skills

Mar 10, 2010

On a cold, icy evening last week, families and friends gathered to watch a heated spectacle at the local Martial Arts Center. Sixteen boys and girls ages 6 to 16 tested for various skill levels March 3 during Mount Shasta Martial Arts Program’s Winter Taekwondo Promotion Exam.

This exam, an opportunity for participants to display their skills and be judged by a panel of black belts, covers a variety of topics including basic movements (kicks, strikes, blocks and footwork); forms (prearranged movements); board breaking; sparring; and self-defense.

Participants in the MSMAP Winter Taekwondo Promotion Exam

    Participants in the March 3 Winter Taekwondo Promotion Exam and several supporters.

Participants are required to display other characteristics related to their training such as a positive attitude when facing challenges and, most importantly, good manners.

Amy Cambou and Kevin Van Laeken, parents of Kyle (8) and Holden (7), are “incredibly pleased” with the overall exam experience.

“The instructors teach and encourage safety, manners, and respect, while keeping it fun,” says Cambou. “Our sons have learned discipline, a new idea of what respect means, and how to deal with disappointment. They have discovered the joy and anxiety of preparing for a promotion test, and that focus and hard work pay off.”

Kristin Carter, watching her daughter, Juna (8), take her first exam, agreed.

“It was great to see young children and teenagers working together toward a common goal,” Carter said. “The students’ respect and focus could certainly be felt in the studio. And the level of performance by the students is a direct reflection of the high level of instruction they receive. We are so fortunate to have such a quality martial arts program in our area.”

Chuck Buhs, head instructor of MSMAP, emphasizes that it is the journey not the destination that is important; it is the training, not the higher rank or belt color, that offers the greatest value.

Orion holding gold and silver medals
Young Medal Winner: Orion Alley, 9, holding his gold (forms) and bronze (sparring) medals. he competed in the Santa Cruz Open Taekwondo Championships on March 6.

“The main goal for us is that people try martial arts to decide if they really like it or not,” says Buhs. “If they like it and continue training, they learn so much more along the way than they ever expected when they started. It’s like a great motorcycle ride. The journey is filled with unexpected and interesting surprises that are often more valuable and educational than the destination itself. This exam reflects each person’s journey.”

Griffin Hough (15) had perhaps the most interesting journey at the exam as he tested for 1st geup (red belt with black stripe; one rank just before black belt). He demonstrated the entire range of skills including sparring against two people at once and breaking five boards in quick succession with precise, powerful kicks and strikes, said Buhs.

Hough, a freshman at Weed High School who began training seven years ago, is looking forward to continuing his training with a combination of eagerness and patience.

“This promotion test was more stressful than all the others because it required much more skill,” Hough said. “Chuck and Peter [MSMAP founding instructor, Dr. Peter Halt] have helped me prepare, and I feel confident that I will be able to successfully complete my black belt exam when it is time.”

Not only did Hough’s hard work pay off in passing the exam, but he is also a source of inspiration for other participants, Buhs said.

Cambou says that seeing others work diligently is “motivating for Kyle and Holden” to improve.

The Mount Shasta Martial Arts Program offers taekwondo, yongmudo, and self-defense instructional workouts five days each week. More information is available on their web site,

NOTE: Griffen took his black belt exam at UC Berkeley on December 4, 2010. Learn more about his exam and the observations of his parents and teachers below.

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