Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Test - A Week Later

Here are some of my favorite pictures from last weekend:

Before picture with Middle

With Teen Ninja Girl, testing for her 2nd Dan


More forms

Fighting Middle

And the other teen boys

Hapkido sets

Grappling Middle

More grappling

Still grappling

Home stretch

Soaked, and almost done

Receiving my belt from Middle
Thanking The Master

Making the switch

Happy and relieved

With one of my best training buddies

Traditional group shot

The very excited Teen
The After Picture - speaks for itself again :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

How I Earned My Black Belt

That's Middle presenting it to me - a nice tradition at our school.  

It was an exciting morning, and I thought the test went well for all of us.

But when I think about earning my black belt, I don't think about the test itself.  

I think about the last year of my red / red stripe training. Showing up at the dojang early, leaving late, taking classes six days a week.  Seeking out the extra help and open practice sessions, pushing myself as hard as I could in class, in cardio, in sparring.  Being at sparring every Friday, plus fighting drills on Mondays with Kickboxing Guy (before my usual hour of cardio, and then the extra-challenging Monday night class).  Crunches and leg lifts. Fighting and grappling before or after class with the younger guys. Nursing the bruises, the tight hip, the sore muscles, the injured fingers and toes. Winter mornings at the Y, stretching, running, lifting, drilling forms and taekwondo actions in front of the mirrors.  Burpees, burpees, burpees. Weekends with the guru, accepting his often harsh criticism and pummelings, hearing him tell me that "good enough never is" and taking that mantra with me into another week of striving to "be better." Videotaping myself and wincing to see a floating hand, a sloppy chamber, a shallow stance, or my eyes not looking where they should be.  Doing the same action or form over and over in slow motion trying to fix the bad habits, the floppy arms, the wobbly posture. Holding myself in a deep horse-stance until my legs were shaking.  Boxing and getting punched in the face whenever I dropped my guard.  Working longstick forms in the yard.  Forcing myself to do all the jumps.  Drilling the fighting techniques and hapkido, insisting that my partner not give me anything unless I do it right. Throwing and being thrown. Asking the stronger men to practice random grabs with me until I could escape without stopping to think. Reading books, watching YouTube videos and sharing long conversations with peers and mentors about martial arts philosophy and technique. Cleaning, painting, and helping out where I could at the dojang and with the Demo and Competition teams. 

Struggling to find balance with my husband and family while I do all this.  Failing at that and sleeping on the couch. A lot.

This was a hard-won piece of cloth.  

I will wear it with both pride and humility, knowing what I put myself through to get here.  

It was never about the test.  

Saturday, June 08, 2013

One Hour

Getting ready to leave for my black belt test.

I have nourished my body with a breakfast of bacon, avocado, and sweet potato, and I've packed a bunch of bananas and a few containers of coconut milk to take with me.  Hopefully, I gave myself enough time to digest all that....

I'm listening to good music and trying to have a relaxing, enjoyable morning.  I only had about 5 hours of sleep, and last night was a complete disaster, so I'm trying to get today started off on a good note.

So far, I'm not nervous at all.  It's either going to go well, or it isn't.  I need to stretch, stretch, stretch.  I need to stay focused and in control.  And I need power and "raw physicality."  Will tap into the anger and frustration I was feeling last night if needed.

Packing up and getting out the door.  Pictures and reflections later.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Countdown

It's Monday.  Four days from now, I will be getting ready for bed, knowing that I will be waking up to go to my black belt test.

I had a busy weekend. Friday night (and Thursday morning, come to think of it) was spent sparring, doing my best to keep my guard in close, not reaching to block stuff, to turtle up and move in, looking for openings and resisting the urge to throw the same right-leg side kick that I always throw.  Saturday morning was spent in class, where I felt like the whole group of red stripes, myself included, needed a lot more work.  I took a break, went to watch Little at Little League, then went back to work with the guru.  He had me do the same form a bajillion times in super-super-slow-mo, then regular slow-mo, and just when I began asking myself why I was doing this wacky exercise, I watched myself and saw I was better.  Much better.

"See that?" he asked. "Now do them ALL that way."

Right as usual.

I also did a lot of videotaping. "This could be a real confidence-killer," I said as I brought in the camera.  "Why?" he asked.  "It's honest.  Never be afraid of the truth."  Sure enough, when we looked at the video, there were things to fix.  I didn't like watching the mistakes, but at least I could see where they were and do something about them.  Got some video of myself sparring as well, which will need some closer examination too.  There's lots to fix there.  In any case, it was an excellent final-color-belt-session with the guru and I was grateful to him for the time he put in with me.

Sunday was challenging in a different way, as I spent it running with The Master and 5 of my fellow students at the Tough Mudder in Lehigh.  I registered as a spectator and didn't do any of the obstacles, but I did surprise myself and run almost the whole 10 miles so that I could stay with the team and take the pictures.  Considering that the whole reason I didn't want to register for it was that I was concerned, not about the obstacles, but about all of the running on difficult terrain and the possibility of slipping and blowing a knee or something the week before my test... I did all that running and it was just fine. And the last two weekends, I did two 5K races, which were also fine.  Kind of bummed that I missed out on the fun obstacles, but it was a good compromise and it only cost me the $20 spectator fee, so I was happy.  And the team got a lot of good pictures.  Win win.

I wanted to treat this week as much like a normal week as possible, maybe with some extra hydration and extra (paleo-friendly) carbs starting Wednesday. I spent a chunk of my day with my favorite female mentor, then trained with Kickboxing Guy at 5, took cardio at 6 and class at 7 as usual.  Tomorrow, I will work for about 2 hours in the morning, go out to lunch, then come back for evening classes and practice.  As for the rest of the week, we'll see.  Some people take the last few days off completely, but I don't see myself doing that.  I might even spar on Friday.  In some ways, the test is a Big Deal, but in other ways, it shouldn't be.  If I'm not ready for it, taking Thursday and Friday off isn't going to make a difference.  Might as well do what I want.

In any case, the 10 mile run and the 3 hours of practice tonight has earned me a hot bath and a cozy bed.  Headed there now.