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.