If you’ve spent any time at Oakmont Martial Arts, you’ve met Mr. Howard Loevner.
A frequent guest judge at testing, fifth-degree Black Belt Mr. Loevner is known by almost everyone for his kindness, smiles, and enthusiasm – and his workouts in the adult class. A “Mr. Loevner warm-up” is sure to leave you sweating and maybe a little sore the next day, but having fun at the same time.
Mr. Loevner has been training in taekwondo for a long time: 21 years. He’s enjoyed all of it, and says that sixth-degree would be his crowning achievement. “I become flushed with pride knowing I will become a Master,” he said. “It embodies everything we represent in the ATA. Especially being one of the few Masters that is not a school owner. It allows me to become part of a fraternity of instructors that has the elevated ability to touch lives in many, many ways.”
But the road to that goal has not always been smooth. Originally scheduled to test at the World Championships last summer, Mr. Loevner suffered a serious injury that delayed his testing. “My injury was significant,” he said. And his confidence took a hit as a result. “Immediately after suffering broken ribs, a fractured wrist and serious nerve damage to three of my fingers, I felt I was in for a long and tedious recovery. Was not sure if I would get back to my physical stature prior to the accident.”
But the positive attitude that he demonstrates to students, and encourages them to maintain, came to his rescue. By maintaining a good attitude and committing to his recovery, Mr. Loevner was able to attend Fall Nationals to participate in his testing. The sense of accomplishment was not lost on him. “Honestly the morning I tested for my sixth degree (exactly four month since my surgery) I got tears in my eyes standing on the floor at The ESPN Wide World of Sports complex that I had the opportunity to test and bounced back so quickly. I am guessing it was divine intervention or my will to return to normalcy with my life!”
Unfortunately, the accident would not be the only stumbling point on the road to sixth degree. Despite being prepared and mentally focused for the task, Mr. Loevner received a no-change at this testing. While forms, weapons, and sparring were top-notch, a pesky board that did not break until the third attempt stood in his way.
“I was prepared and confident the day of testing,” he said. “Unfortunately when testing for this esteemed rank, your performance/testing has to be flawless. One of my stations I did not break until the third attempt.”
But just as injury couldn’t keep him off track for long, neither will the no-change. “I will change one of my board break stations for the March testing. Honestly, there is nothing I will change as far as preparation. I will be more focused when it comes time to break and really concentrate on each specific break. I will break my boards on the first attempt, and feel confident I will pass in March of 2015!”
The topic of no-changes is a touchy one. They’ve been issued at OMA testings and they are never fun. Kids especially view a no-change as a failure and receiving one is often a cause for tears and despair. But as Ms. Graff says, it’s a temporary setback. Mr. Loevner agrees.
“The best-of-the-best have experienced no-changes (Chief Master Caruso took three testings to become a 7th Degree; Chief Master Lee took three attempts to become an 8th degree),” he said. “No one will navigate through life without disappoint and setbacks.”
What is important is not the setback, but how the student responds to it. “Setbacks will build their character in a more positive and determined way as they encounter other facets of their lives,” Mr. Loevner said. “A no-change should make them more resilient and hopefully motivate him or her to achieve the ultimate goal.”
Mr. Loevner will test again at Spring Nationals. Yeah, he’s had a temporary setback on more than one occasion. But rest assured – we will all be ready to celebrate with him when he gets to tie on that sixth-degree belt and don that Master’s robe.
And he’ll be there to celebrate our goals, too.
A software technical writer by day, Mary Sutton is the mother of two teens and has been making her living with words for over ten years. She is the author of the Hero’s Sword middle-grade fantasy series, writing as M.E. Sutton, and The Laurel Highlands Mysteries police-procedural series, writing as Liz Milliron. Visit her online at www.marysuttonauthor.com.