Saturday, June 04, 2011

Still Here

I tested for the yellow / stripe today.

And I'm happy to say that I (so far) have not come down with any weird sickness.

As for the test - I had mixed feelings going into it. As I mentioned before, I hadn't planned to test this weekend. I had new material to learn in a short amount of time, and I had to do a lot of work this week to get to the point where I felt confident enough to do it in a testing situation.

I'm sure I made mistakes during the test, but I always make mistakes under pressure. Keeping my mind clear and panic-free will be an ongoing issue for me, and I will always be working on perfecting my techniques, my stances, etc. I may learn something new, but I will never feel like I've truly mastered it - there's always something I can do better.

Having said that, in many ways, I felt better about this test than I did about my previous ones. This time, I had something I needed to prove to myself, and regardless of how I may have looked on the outside, that's exactly what I did.

This test was the perfect culmination of my last three months in martial arts, in which the theme - for me - was Facing Fear.

In addition to building up my endurance in kickboxing class, one big step for me this quarter was starting Friday night sparring. Sparring as in actually putting on gloves and foot pads and a mouth guard and pairing up with someone to hit and kick (and be hit and kicked) - to use the techniques we learn for real.

I'd been dreading this for so long, but had promised people I'd do it after I got my yellow belt. And they didn't let me forget it.

So I started doing this, and while it's still probably my least favorite thing to do (next to grappling), I've been doing it pretty much every week. And rewarding myself with dinner out with the other karate friends afterward.

Fear of not being perfect - of letting myself or my teachers down - is another demon I constantly wrestle. In many ways, it's a good demon. Yesterday, as I was obsessively running through form after form in the empty room, one of the tougher instructors commented that, for a yellow-belt, my stances were actually very good. While I was happy to hear the compliment, I knew that if my stances had improved, it was because of the attention and criticism of my female mentors at the school, who are quick to notice and correct a hand or foot in the wrong place.

Testing this weekend might not have been the wisest choice in their minds, but they also counseled that it's my journey and I had to do what I felt was right for me.

When it came down to it, I had something to prove to myself this week, and it had more to do with my fears and limitations than the timing of my material. Sure enough, a huge part of the test today turned out to be of my endurance - continuous sparring, grappling, pushups, burpees - answering my own questions about how far I can be pushed without breaking.

Monday I will go back to working on my technique, but today I am happy that I had the opportunity to face my fears and prove to myself that I could do this, even with some new material, even with the inevitable mistakes.

And having done that, I'm satisfied tonight.

Looking forward to the lessons that await me in the next 3-6 months.

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