Yesterday, The Master clearly stated his intention to test me for my black belt in June.
I'm good with it, at least today. I had spent some time going back and forth, considering the pros and cons of waiting another six months if given the option. One of my most influential mentors won't be at the June test - it's her son's high school graduation day - and for that reason alone, I would have liked to have waited. But she promised to celebrate with me later, and she firmly believes that I'm ready. I'm still seeing all the things I need to practice and improve, but she and others have emphasized that this is always going to be the case. Which is a good point.
Over the last month, I have continued to work to move beyond the techniques themselves and put my focus more on application. The last two weekends were spent working on fighting - boxing even - with the guru. I'm slow at it; I drop my guard; I get punched in the nose. He's got me watching videos, fighting myself in the mirror, thinking about timing, awareness, speed, power. Protecting my head and face. ("I'm a turtle, I'm a turtle, I'm a turtle...") It's frustrating, but at the same time, gratifying to be working on a new skill. Sunday, Middle came as well, and it was nice to see him learning something new that we can practice together.
Material-wise, I finally got the jumps in the longstick form - the last challenge in my forms I had been struggling with and didn't think I'd ever accomplish. As it stands, most of the adult students my age at the school skip this move - which consists of jumping forward and backward over the stick like a jump rope - a hard, heavy jump rope, which hurts your feet when you don't clear it, or even worse, knocks you on your butt. It was a major psychological hurdle to get over it in one direction, so to jump it backward as well seemed almost insurmountable. Thanks to a very patient teacher who persisted with me until I did it, I have been jumping it pretty consistently for about 3 weeks now. Which feels great.
The rest of the longstick form is another story - it's kind of choppy and still needs work. The guru encouraged me to imagine myself doing it, and my other forms under a waterfall - visualizing both strength and serenity.
He's good like that. Trying to keep this image in my mind when I practice.
Not a bad image for life in general, as a matter of fact...