Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Black Belt Test Paper

For my 1st Dan black belt test in Tae Kwon Do, I was required to write a paper about what it means to become a black belt and what inherent responsibilities it brings. I thought I would share that paper here. My test was on 11 January 2014 and I passed! :) This was the culmination of more than 4.5 years of preparation, a journey I started in 2005 and from which I took a break from 2009-2012 for graduate school. I returned at the beginning of 2013 with the goal of earning my black belt—I was a red belt at the time—by the end of the year.

What Becoming a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do Means to Me
10 January 2014

My journey on the way to earning my black belt has been long and full of obstacles. I started training in 2005 as an adult and it has been quite the balancing act between work, martial arts, and all the other inherent responsibilities of being an adult. In many ways, I think trying to do all of this at the same time has made me a better student because it requires a good amount of discipline and determination. I don’t like leaving things unfinished so while it has been nearly nine years since I first began training—with a four year break for graduate school—I returned a year ago to complete the foundational learning of my Tae Kwon Do experience.

This transition to black belt primarily symbolizes for me the very essence of perseverance and indomitable spirit. It’s not a trivial undertaking to learn and incorporate a new set of skills like TKD into one’s life. I am not as young as most students, not in as good physical shape and with much less energy, yet I strive to the best of my abilities (most days) to keep up and accomplish the same skills and tasks. I had a real crisis at red belt with comparing myself to other students and feeling I was not as “good” because of these differences. But with a lot of self reflection, I’ve come to accept that my best is just that—my best. There will always be those with more and those with less talent, drive, ability, or ambition to continue this journey. But for what I might lack in physical ability, I make up for in determination.

As I transition to a true student of TKD, I think the biggest responsibility lies in helping others with their journeys. Teaching skills is the easy part; that is, explaining how to do a particular kick, demonstrating self defense moves, or reciting academic knowledge is something all students are capable of as they move up the ranks. But, upon reaching advanced levels, students should hone an understanding and appreciation for encouraging less advanced students to try their bests and recognize their inherent skills and abilities and to appreciate themselves for undertaking this art. I can’t speak for everyone but I think in order to achieve this level of accomplishment requires maturity, self reflection, and mental fortitude that naturally leads one to want to help others and encourage them to continue learning.

I look forward to attaining the rank of first dan because, most simply, it is something I have wanted to accomplish. Yes, I have enjoyed the journey and learned a lot about myself along the way while internalizing and exploring the tenets of TKD; but while the transition into true student is important, I recognize that for myself the transition out of novice student is equally important. I feel accomplished. The idea of having a real “title” is pretty cool too. In many ways, this is even better than finishing graduate school because it’s something I just wanted to do. No professional reason, only personal. I did this for me.

Note: The title I now enjoy is "Jo-Kyo" which means first degree black belt.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How To Create a Soda Bottle Container

I remember the first time I saw a geocache container made from old soda bottle caps. I thought, "That is so cool! I want one." Then I forgot about it for several months until one day it dawned on me how to make one.

Project Description

This how-to is for making a container out of old soda bottle caps. My preference is to use three liter bottles because of the size, but two liter and 20oz bottles work too. I have experimented with several bottle types and I think the soda bottles work best because the plastic is stronger and the length of the bottle neck is larger, giving you more coverage for the bottom of the container.

Time: 15 minutes
Cost: If you can find soda bottles, this is free!

a gray soda bottle container made from two bottle caps
Soda bottle cache made from three liters

Supplies Needed for This Project

  • two plastic bottle caps of the same size and type and one plastic bottle
  • box cutter
  • scissors
  • super glue


These are the steps I took to complete this project. Please modify to fit your own project. :)

Step 1

Start by selecting what bottle type you want to use for your project. This how-to uses a three liter bottle. You need two caps and one bottle.

various sizes of plastic bottles and caps
Assorted bottle types 

Step 2

Cut the top off the plastic bottle as close as you can to the bottom of the neck. I find this is done most easily with a sharp box cutter but scissors can work too.

a box cutter being used to cut a plastic soda bottle
Cut the top off the bottle using a box cutter

the cut off top of a soda bottle and two soda bottle caps
Top of the bottle after being cut off

Step 3

This step is the trickiest. You now need to trim down the cut soda bottle so that the second bottle cap fits snugly over it. I find good scissors work best for this stage, but you can also continue to use a box cutter. Trim as much plastic as you can to remove the curved material, leaving just the bottle neck. Check periodically if your second bottle cap fits over the trimmed bottle neck. This will likely take several tries.

a trimmed soda bottle neck and excess material
Trimmed soda bottle neck

Step 4

Make sure the second bottle cap is fitting correctly onto the soda bottle neck before this step. At this point you want to apply a little bit of super glue to the outside of the soda bottle then screw on the second bottle cap. The glue is meant only to keep the second bottle cap from coming off; it does not make the container waterproof.

person applying super glue to a soda bottle neck
Apply super glue to the bottle neck

Side note: I have experimented with several types of glue for waterproofing and ease of use. Both Gorilla Glue and hot glue can do the trick, but they are messy and hard to get right to keep all water out. Most recently I have experimented with using caulk around the inside of the container as it is designed to be waterproof and is easy to work with. This is what I recommend using if you really want to make sure water stays out.

Step 5

That's it! Your basic container is ready. You can now do all sorts of things to make it your own. Here are some things I've done:

  • spray painted the outside black
  • glued a magnet to the inside of the bottom
  • used the plastic ring beneath the cap as a way to secure a zip tie
  • drilled a hole into the bottom and attached a chain with a small screw (the cap that is glued in place)
  • glued camo to the top of the outside of the container (the cap that screws off)

soda bottle container with the top off
Finished soda bottle container

black and white cat next to a soda bottle cache
My cat Gavin with a soda bottle container to show scale

What cool ideas have you come up with to personalize your cache container? Let us know in the comments.