I was going through some old pictures, and I came across a picture taken the moment I got home from my test to move from “Probationary” 1st degree black belt, to “Decided” 1st degree black belt. Now, there are many and more organizations who do not divide up the black belt ranks to this extreme, but they all find little ways of making extra money from the extra testing fees.I wasn’t standing up straight, but not out of trying to look intimidating (although I WAS rather young at the time, and trying to look intimidating was something which almost surely crossed my mind whenever I was going to have my picture taken). The truth is, I was hurt pretty badly. I am a very big guy (6’5” tall, and at that time I was about 235 lbs.), and have always had a higher than normal tolerance for pain. I would never go so far as to say that I like pain, but I seem to be able to deal with it a lot better than many of the people that I know. As part of the test to move up to that rank, there was almost a gang initiation type of beating which had to be undertaken. Well, I undertook, and gave as much as I got, but I got a LOT. When I look at that picture, I am transported back to that time and place. I can still feel the ache in my ribs from the kick that I took from Robert Lambert, whose thighs measured the same as my waist did back then; and none of it fat – solid bone crunching muscle! THAT is the real reason I am not standing up straight in the picture. If you are reading this, Mr. Lambert, I still owe you! I am almost ashamed of how much fatter I am now than then, but this was back before I married a woman who can cook better than any five star chef, so it is an even trade in my opinion. At the time this picture was taken, I had been training in the martial arts for over a decade, and in Taekwondo for nearly two years. The funny thing to me is this; although we gave and took some very rough shots, and as bad as things turned out in my relationship with the USTA, those were still some of the best days I had in my 20’s. I knew some really great martial artists in the USTA. Richard Johnson, my Instructor would be on the list, of course. Daniel Perio was supremely talented, and his family was one of the best one could ever hope to meet. There were the Rigden brothers, Eric and Micah. The Sheffields, twins who were as gracious and friendly as they were talented. Arnold Trevino had tremendous skill as well. What is funny is that the people who impressed me the most were not the people at the top of the company, but the grunts like me who were pounding day in and day out, giving our absolute best. Whatever I may say about the USTA, the people I met there were fantastic!