Saturday, June 20, 2015

2nd Degree Test: The Pictures

We started with 50 burpees, in keeping with recent tradition.  Then material - forms, hapkido, weapons.

Sparring.  Here I am with Middle.

More material.

There was a lot of emphasis on our three sword forms.  No nunchaku or bo staff this time.

More burpees (140 total over the course of the two hours), and back to material.

Fighting Middle again.

Knife techniques / throws / disarms.

Taking down Middle.

More knife techniques / throws / disarms.

Grappling.  I had prepared well for this part, and wish I had had the energy to do it well.

More sparring.  Last push.

Thankful to be done.

Middle presenting me with my new belt.

Comparing belts, with our names in Korean.

So grateful to The Master and my fellow black belts for giving us a good test, to my most supportive hubby for taking a zillion pictures, to my parents for coming out to watch me get beat up, and of course to my training buddy, with whom I (once again) enjoyed a Margarita afterward.  We kept each other sane and motivated during the process, and both felt relieved and extremely happy about how the test went.  No regrets this time; no looking back.

It was incredibly hard, and when I put the belt around my waist, I knew I had earned it.  This time, there was no question in my mind regarding whether I belonged at this rank, and I'm sure this was the case for all three of us. We were three out of the twelve adults who had tested for 1st Dan two years before.  We had done the work, put in the hours, pushed ourselves hard.  We were ready to be Sabumnims at the school.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sunday, June 07, 2015

6 Days

Well, I'm feeling a bit more prepared today.

Yesterday was Saturday, and Saturday usually begins with class.

This is the hardest class of the week.  It is a small class, which typically consists of 6 black belts and a color belt or two who want to be pushed.  Leadership of the class rotates between the top belts in the room and it officially lasts 90 minutes.  We rotate to face the mirrors and start with about 45 minutes of hell (usually featuring a lot of burpees), we work on a skill, and then either go through all of our forms or split off to work on our own material.  We almost never pair up to work on partner stuff.  Your partner is yourself in the mirror.

Sore from Thursday BJJ and Friday sparring, I was content to let this one go.  I was running late, hadn't eaten or really even had much coffee; I was generally unprepared.  I knew my training buddy would be there looking for me, though, and it was the last Saturday before our test, so I went mainly to see him.  I figured I could always go work out alone in the other room while they bowed in and did the grueling workout.

This was my plan, but when I got there, I saw just about everyone I like to work with and learn from, and I couldn't bail on my training buddy, so I opted to take class.

But it wasn't class.  It was a mock test, run by 3 of the toughest, most observant instructors.  We stayed facing forward.  We did forms, falls, burpees, falls, forms, more burpees.... Everything except Hapkido and weapons.  These, plus sparring and grappling, will be on our real test.  We were called out for poor stances, not looking sharp, not falling on a straight line.  We were told to do one form going left first instead of right.  We were reminded that everyone would be watching and seeing our mistakes. It was, in some ways, more intimidating than a real test.

Horrible as it was, I was grateful for it, because I realized a few things that were better to realize now than next week.  For example, I thought I was solid on the forms and wasn't even that worried about them.  I've been doing these same 23 forms for years now.  They feel so automatic to me that I can carry on a conversation while I'm doing them.  My body just knows them.

Or so I thought.  Practicing alone is one thing.  Performing under pressure in limited space with other people to distract you is quite another.  With the added scrutiny, the running dialogue in my head sounded something like, "You're being watched.  Did you do that last move right?  Is your hand floating?  Is your chamber for that move high enough?  The guy next to you is two moves ahead.  Should you try and catch up so we're in sync?  The guy in front of you is too close.  Should you adjust before we go on, or risk bumping into him?  Crap, now you're too close to the wall and that annoying split in the mat where you could catch your toe.  You can't risk another broken toe.  Also, avoid the slippery sweat spot on the floor or you'll fall.  Adjust."  All of this annoying conversation in my head inevitably leads to, "Oh crap, what's the next move?  I think you did that wrong.  Great, a mistake.  And now another one.  I'm sure they saw that.  It looks like you don't even know this form you've been doing for 5 years..."

So many mistakes, on stuff I felt certain I knew and didn't need to practice.  And I let myself get flustered.  I did notice that as the test went on, I made less mistakes, or if I made them, I didn't notice or care.  Such is the benefit of being so exhausted you can't even think.  Which is the point you get to fairly early in a real test.

So, I survived that, and took several lessons from it.  I spent some time regrouping with my training buddy afterward, and making plans to practice together this week.  One great thing about him is that he is a certified Life Coach and is wonderful at listening and supporting.  Feeling very fortunate to have him with me in this.

The rest of yesterday, I spent in Baltimore with the guru, where he was competing in a BJJ tournament.  He won his gi division but lost in no-gi.  He seemed satisfied with the experience, saying, "I'm taking home a first place medal and I've learned a new armbar."  Tournaments with him like today are fun.  I take his pictures and videos and he teaches me stuff while we watch the other matches.  He loves to teach and I love to learn, which pretty much sums up our friendship.  We talked a bit about my upcoming test and the morning's mock test, but didn't spend much time on it.  He's supportive of me testing, and has expressed his confidence that I'll do just fine.  That's really all I needed at this point.

So today begins my last week of prep.  I'm sore, but will take it easy the rest of this week, just doing a light version of my normal schedule, and doing all my forms, every day, hopefully some yoga, and Judo class / BJJ open mat today.  Still on the fence about BJJ Thursday night. The plan is to stay injury-free (the wrist is almost normal again), and to take care of myself and enjoy this thing I love so much.  Focusing on gratitude and the gains I've made over the last two years as a black belt.

Monday, June 01, 2015

12 Days.... And I'm Icing My Wrist

I guess it's tradition.

Eight days before my green stripe test, I broke my right pinky toe.
Just before my red belt test, I dislocated my right thumb.
Nine days before my red stripe test, I hyperextended three fingers on my left hand.
A few weeks before my black belt test, I impinged my right ankle.

This spring I've broken my right thumb and my left pinky toe, so I was hoping I was done with injuries for this year, but I've still been cautious.  When my BJJ / Judo coach asked me last night why I blew off Judo class, I explained the concern about my history and the upcoming test. I had thirteen days to wrap myself in bubble wrap, and stay on the ground where I felt safest.

I took open mat BJJ and on my third roll with the guru, who was kind enough to come and work with me there, I hyperextended my right wrist.

It's not the guru's fault, of course, that several of my pre-test injuries were sustained working with him.  Given the fact that I train one-on-one with him more than anyone else, it simply comes down to statistics.  And he has been fantastic, and incredibly generous with his time this spring, both with BJJ, and, this week, sparring and forms as well.  I'm incredibly grateful.  He has often told me, "If it's not hurting, you're not learning," and this is true.  While I knew before (because he taught me) to use the forearm, not the hand to post on someone's hip, now I know it.  In a split second of "OW!" as he came forward and I felt my wrist bend back, it was ingrained in me in a way I am not likely to ever forget.  (Much like the way I now know never to block a kick with open fingers.)  I just hope this lesson doesn't require months of healing.  

So today, it's stiff, and it hurts to move it certain ways, but it's not especially swollen and I'm hoping it's going to be okay.  I need it to do burpees and pushups, which are an important part of tests (and pre-test conditioning, which will have to be scaled back yet again).  I'll keep icing it and wrap it this week for practice and see how that goes.  Doing pushups on closed fists (and straight wrists) is harder, but looks far more badass, so maybe that's what I'll be doing.

I'll be glad when this test is behind me.