Monday, September 26, 2011

Anatomy of a Brown Belt Test

When I was at my first test, I 'knew' I couldn't do my requirements. The basic fitness everyone has to do. I had the hardest time with push ups and sit ups. I was so worried about not passing. Little did I know then that if you are invited to test, you have already shown that you have what is required to pass the test. The brown belt test is no different in the fact that if you are invited, you already passed. You still have to work hard for it, but Shihan knows that you have what it takes. He doesn't like setting people up for failure.

The Set Up

So for this brown belt test, I knew that I had what I needed to pass, even though just barely. I can do the 50 knuckle push ups, but I still need breaks. The most I can do at one time is 26, on a good day. I can do the 100 sit-ups, again with small breaks but I can get up to 70 without stopping so they go much quicker than the push ups. I can now do the handstand with relative ease, meaning I don't get sick to my stomach like I used to.I practiced my katas often and even had some help from my persona trainer.  So I was going into the test knowing that even though I would get a low score on my fitness, I would still get it all done. 

Sensei Kris recently got me a job at one of the local ski mountains as a zip line tour guide. Really fun job, I get to zipline all day. This was my second week into it and I wasn't getting much sleep. Too much going on at one time I think. It was my first real job in 15 years where I had a schedule to keep and a weekly pay check. The kids were not adjusting well to mom being gone so much. The job is stressful because I am in charge of peoples safety  as they fly by their harnesses up to 80 feet above the ground and can be racing at 35 miles per hour. And of course I am fighting in less than a month in Canada and there was this huge belt test. I was super tired.

So on this very fine Friday, I was working with Sensei at the zip lines. Sensei brought up a fact that completely escaped me. I was the highest ranking person testing. That means that I would be the last person standing, doing my requirments when all the others were done with theirs. If you knew me personally, you would know that I hate being judged. I have a wee bit of an anxiety disorder and I kind of freak out being the center of attention.

Seeing me panic, she switches topics to the fights. Turns out that these fights are not a tournament but a match. I am going to fight the same person for three rounds of three minutes with a minute break between rounds. A whole new panic ensues in my mind.

I don't care if I win or lose. When I am on the mat, there are no judges or people. Just me, fighting against myself trying to inflict my will upon someone who is trying to inflict their will upon me. It is always the person with the most spirit that wins. 

In the case of this match, I will not only be battling their spirit, but my stamina. My worst case scenario is that I run out of gas. I would rather have three fights in a tournament, than a three round match. Sensei says that the match is better because you can't feel your wounds before you fight again. Seeing a new wave of panic, she switches topic back to the belt test. 

Sensei starts to try to make me feels better. She starts with how Shihan will be grading me because he always grades the highest ranking person. Then she asks what was making me the most nervous and what parts do I have the hardest time with. I tell her all my weaknesses, and I do start to feel better.

Later in the day at work, I found my self in the harness room. Because I was on break and alone, I decided to do katas. Turns out I wasn't as alone as I thought. Soon a few of my coworkers were in the room with me and we were all kicking and punching, then doing handstands and rolling on the floor. Didn't get much practice in but we sure did have fun.

The Test

We get to the test and I am nervous as usual, but I realized that every face in the building is one that I recognized, even the parents of the children. They are all friendly to me. I stretch out, I joke around, laugh and stretch some more with my dojo mates and then the test begins with kihon.

We all do the basic punches, blocks and kicks. Then basic ido geko (same thing but moving rather than standing still). After the first katas, the white belts sit out. Then we do the white belt with a strip requirements and they sit out. We continue with kihon, ido geko and katas for each rank. 

As the lines thin out, I start to realize that the next lowest ranking person is Ryan. He is a yellow belt, going for his stripe. That is a full three belts below me. That means that I am not only doing the new stuff I need for my brown belt, but I have to do the requirements for the three other belt ranks below me, ALL BY MYSELF. Until that moment, I didn't know how much lower the next person was. Soon I was the only one standing. I tried my best to forget them all, didn't work.

Finally with all the katas done, we get to the fitness. Shihan calls up me, Ryan, and little Scottie. We all have different requirements so we all take turns. I get to go last because I haven't had a break yet. As Ryan gets started on his push ups, Sensei runs over and takes the papers away from Shihan. SHE IS THE ONE SCOREING ME. I can't believe it. I told her all the things I was worried about. 

By the way, fitness requirements are a lot harder when you are tired from kihon and kata. 

The next thing up is sparring. The kids went first and they are so much fun to watch. When it was the adults turn, we all got in to our usual lines. I got in front of a white belt, Dean. The match went for a minute, then we bowed and rotated to a new partner and I got another white belt, Rich. We usually do this rotation until all the black belts fight against the person they are scoring. Shihan did things differently this time and instead of rotating once again, he cleared the floor with the exception of Ryan and me. 

The room seems so quiet as we bowed to each other and soon the order to fight was announced. Dude hits hard. He can hit harder, Ryan is a great fighter, but the level he hit me at was still like getting hit by bricks. I did manage to kick him in the head. Didn't even think about it. Once second, I am blocking a punch, next he is stunned and I am putting my foot down. a few seconds later, the match was over. I gave Ryan a hug and he and I walked away arm in arm. My husband runs to HIM and starts with the "Are you all right?" (big jerk but i love him).

When I get my scores, Sensei has remarked about all of my faults. Funny how they are the same faults as I mentioned to her earlier. But she did have some I didn't know about. She also wrote some really nice things too.

Overall, I did okay. I could have and should have done better, but then again, I always feel that way. I am sure when I go for my stripe, I will feel the same. Nerves will be on edge and I will lose sleep over it. But that isn't for a while yet.