Like Son, Like Father
Written by my father, Master Ray Rupert, in January 2006 at our home in Owego, New York, as he prepared for his Midnight Blue Belt test. I was 14 years old at the time.
As I am writing this, another Christmas has come and gone. Out my window is only blackness. Another cold, dark January is upon us. The years pass by so quickly, and as I grow older, they just keep picking up speed. Two years ago this month, I wrote my first article for the newsletter. I can still remember vividly the events that prompted it. At that time, my son was preparing for his IL Gup evaluation and ultimately, the black belt test. As I watched his group of six in IL gup prep class doing the form Passai in unison, I was moved. I remembered him doing Basic One as a White Belt in the children’s class what seemed like yesterday, and now he was doing a complicated, advanced form with focus and power, holding his own with the adults in his group. It’s one of those moments a parent remembers.
I was an 8th gup Orange Belt at that time, and I remember watching in awe and thinking “maybe someday I’ll be able to do that.” It seems so far away and so unthinkable at the time, but now, here I am two years later, doing that same form and making the same preparations for my own IL Gup Evaluation.
As a kid, I’d see my dad driving our blue Chevelle station wagon or working with tools around the house and long for the day when I’d be big enough to do those things myself. Now I’m an adult and it seems like some things never change. When he promoted me to Orange belt, our instructor said my job was to catch up to my kid, and his job was to never let me catch him. Throughout my training Tim has been two years ahead of me, so watching him is a preview of coming attractions for me. First the Pyung Ahn forms – how exciting to learn a form that doesn’t have the name “Basic something” – then Passai. Could the jump at the beginning be any cooler?
Now I see Tim doing the Dan level forms Jin Do and Sip Soo and Chil Sung Sa Ro (that one’s a doozy!). I can’t wait until I am big enough to learn those forms! And the Pyung Ahn One Steps and knife defense combinations – hold your horses there, sonny!
My two boys are almost exactly two years apart in age. As the big brother, Tim blazes the trail for Paul. The first day of kindergarten, up to the first day of middle school and all the milestones in between; Tim hit them first, and then two years later it was Paul‘s turn. Paul made it to Green Belt before exiting stage left. He’s his own person, and has his own interests. He’s moved onto basketball and horror movies. He hit a buzzer-beating jump shot from well beyond the half-court line in a Boys’ Club basketball league game. That’s another one of those moments a parent remembers.
When it comes to training, once again Tim is blazing the trail, only this time, instead of his younger brother following behind, it’s his old man. I have a strong feeling of déjà vu from just two years ago when Tim was an IL Gup. I remember cold, dark January Fridays, heading out to IL Gup prep class. I remember what a thrill it was to see his name in lights on the list of Cho Dan candidates posted on the testing board. I remember going over the Korean terms for anatomy with him. The IL Gup rank that seemed so distant for me then is here, and now that I’ve attained it, I want to enjoy it. (But not for too long! I wouldn’t want to get stale!)
IL Gups are the highest ranking colored belts, or Gup members. We will never be the highest ranking anything again once we move on to the Dan level. It’ll be right back down to the bottom of the heap. It’s a thrill to look at the list of Cho Dan candidates and see my name in lights. I made copies of the list and have one at home on the refrigerator, one on my desk at home, and one on my desk at work so I can experience the thrill throughout the day. I think everyone at home is tired of hearing about it, so I keep waiting for someone at work to ask me what a Cho Dan candidate is so I can launch into a detailed explanation. So far, no one seems to have noticed it. Maybe I should enlarge the print. Or use bold face type. Maybe some glitter. What’s a Cho Dan candidate? Funny you should ask!
I was dressed in my uniform waiting for the Saturday class to begin, a new red belt with no stripes on it yet, when I watched the class of spring 2005 take their IL Gup evaluation. The test was in its fifth hour and in the dreaded endurance portion. I felt a knot of terror form at the pit of my stomach and spread throughout my extremities as I pictured myself in the lineup. A woman watching the test saw my uniform, turned to me and said, “Maybe you should get out now while you still can.” Too late! I’ve come too far.
I remember the day I took my first test. I was nervous and excited at the same time. After watching from the sidelines for two years, I couldn’t believe that I myself was going to be out there testing. I bet I’ll feel that way on March 4, the day of the IL Gup Evaluation. At the end of the evaluation is that long few minutes while the examiners review the candidates’ testing papers, preparing to call the names of those who passed. I remember those few minutes at the end of Tim’s evaluation, waiting to see if his name would be called. Whether he passed or not, my wife and I couldn’t have been more proud of how he done, how far he’s come and how much he had accomplished. I’ve worked hard on my material and will continue to polish as the evaluation draws dangerously nearer. I know I’ll be nervous and I know I’ll make mistakes, but hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll follow in my son’s footsteps. And maybe, just maybe, I can finally catch up to my kid.
– Master Ray Rupert
On June 30, 2019, Master Rupert Sr. was promoted to Master, one of only two people in the history of the Moo Duk Kwan to receive an honorary Master promotion. He passed away 19 days later after a 3 year battle with cancer. He and I hoped to test for 4th and 5th Dan, respectively, in 2020, but in receiving this very special promotion, he was finally able to catch up to me.