|Cameron (L) and I taking our written tests|
On Saturday, July 26th, 2014, I tested for shodan (1st degree black belt) under my Sensei, Richard Poage (Yondan). Also on my testing panel was Jeff Allred (Rokudan), Danny Bowley (Sandan), and Jim Mitchell (Shodan). I wasn’t the only one testing; three of our teen students were testing for brown belt, and one was testing for black belt along with me. My health issues have still not been solved, but I wasn’t the only one with a physical setback, either–Cameron had a broken foot from kicking an elbow at Nationals, and Aditya had a severely sprained ankle. Despite it all, we pushed on. The day started off with Cameron and I taking the written part of our shodan tests, which we didn’t know about in advance. Thankfully, it was pretty easy for us, with the exception of a few questions that we were a little unsure of what Sensei was asking for.
Following the written test was the “warm up,” which was actually a workout designed to wear us out before we even started being tested on our karate. Sensei set up a circuit for us to go through with five stations–chi-ishi (stone mallet) thrusts, nigiri-game (gripping jars) lifts, chi-ishi chops, ishi-sashi (stone lock) morote-barai (double sweeps), and burpees. Once we were good and tired, we had to go through all three Naihanchi kata, stopping to do a push-up between every three movements, just to finish us off.
|Passai Dai (Tawada Passai)|
The rest of the test is mostly a blur of kata, yakusoku kumite, and self defense techniques. I honestly can’t remember much of what I did or didn’t do. One thing I do remember is that I had to ask some of the other students if I had done a section of one of my kata, because I couldn’t remember doing it. Also, I wobbled pretty badly in one of my steps in Passai Dai (Tawada Passai). That bugs me. Still, overall I feel pretty good about how I did–I had to really pace myself, but I was able to complete the test without passing out or throwing up, and I didn’t make any huge mistakes.
The end of every test in our dojo, except for the beginning ranks, is kumite (sparring). Typically, you spar with some of the people you are testing with, and then you spar everyone on the testing panel. I ended up sparring for 4 rounds (I think) before sparring with Sensei, who always spars with you last. He is difficult to hit and defend against when you have energy, let alone when you’ve been testing for 5 hours. Sensei made me chase him for much of the round, which I am terrible at, and wore me out even more. My legs felt too heavy to lift by this point, so he landed just about every leg kick he threw. One of his kicks caught me clean behind the ear and had me seeing stars, and one of his punches to the body made my nausea even worse. Then the grappling happened. When we clinched up, I wanted–no, I commanded myself to throw him. Unfortunately, my body replied with a great big “nope, not doing that,” and just fell over backward. Pretty embarrassing, really. In the end, though, I was able to escape from the ankle lock he was putting me in, and he called it good.
|Me (L) with Sensei Poage (R) after the test|
In the end, everyone who tested passed, although some had to repeat material more than others. It was a tough test, but not as bad as I had made it out to be in my head. Thankfully, reality is usually not as bad as the anticipation. It’s strange to think that, after all these years as a brown belt, I’m now a black belt. In the video, below, you can see Sensei Bowley retiring my brown belt, and Sensei Poage tying my black belt on me for the first time. It’s a pretty surreal feeling.