You only ever get one chance to make a first impression – how true these words are. I have been asked to give my impressions of the Island Taekwondo Centre in Singapore and of my grading for 2nd Degree black belt on November 15th 2012. Master Daniel Sng had graciously accepted me as an overseas member of ITC and agreed to conduct my grading relying totally on a favorable report from his student and our mutual friend Sabum Andrew Kung. In my view Master Sng epitomized one who lived by the tenets of Taekwon-Do. It would not be precise to say that he commanded respect, more correctly it was only natural to freely give the respect and veneration that he deserved. He possesses a wealth of knowledge in both Taekwon-Do and Hapkido, which he was only too willing to share. While he has strong views particularly about Taekwon-Do, he is a natural teacher guiding, proffering advice and expanding on the positives. Not only is his mind sharp but also his eyes – really nothing escapes his attention particularly in the dojang.

The ITC dojang was beautiful. Freshly painted, brightly lit, well equipped, appointed with mirrors and inspiring decorations and the floor has the thickest and cleanest mats I had ever seen in any dojang. I knew that Master Sng had only set up this dojang a few weeks earlier and I marveled at what had been achieved within such a short time frame. But still I could perceive that Master Sng regretted the necessity to move dojangs, the previous one had been larger, it could accommodate international seminars with ease and some items such as trophy cabinets could not be incorporated into the new dojang. However a dojang is a room setup for the teaching of Taekwon-Do, along with their Master, it is the students that make ITC what it is today.

To say that I was impressed with the students of ITC would be a gross understatement – particularly with respect to the black belts. Most clubs are fortunate to have one or maybe two outstanding students, at ITC I could expand upon the merits of each student that I was fortunate to meet.  It is little wonder that the ITC black belts are so good; as juniors they are graded for junior black belt, then again at intermediate level and once more for their senior black belt. Once they are senior 1st Dans there is a further two years of honing their skills before they can apply for 2nd Dan, three years before 3rd Dan etc. Each application must also state what they had done in this intervening time for ITC in particular and ITF in general. No one can argue with the results – these black belts are courteous, dedicated and highly skilled.

My impression of my grading was that I was assessed on a number of different levels, my attitude; fitness; knowledge of patterns, theory and application; self-defense; breaking and sparring.  I had never had a fitness component in a grading before and while it was tailored for my age and circumstances, I felt that I had achieved more than I previously thought I was capable of. Patterns were not performed in continuous succession but in groups of two or three.  Interspersed between patterns were the step sparring, technique applications and self-defense. In this way each pattern could be performed with equal intensity without fatigue compromising the senior patterns. In my opinion this way of grading is logical, Master Sng could assess my proficiency in each aspect of Taekwon-Do. The grading itself ran smoothly, with thanks to the senior black belts who assisted – there was no need for Master Sng to direct them, they already knew what to do and just performed their respective tasks with efficiency.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Master Sng for allowing and presiding over my grading at ITC and Sabum Kung who encouraged and prepared me for grading. I would also like to express my appreciation and thanks to Bo-Sabums Shaun Chua, Jeremy Tan, Justin Gan and Carnation Chai who volunteered their time and assistance to ensure that my grading ran smoothly.

Norbert Strobel

Written by Mr. Norbert Strobel, 2nd Degree Black Belt, ITF Singapore
© Island Taekwon-Do Centre 2012

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