October 25th, 2010


If You Can Force Your Heart And Nerve And Sinew

A karate grading, according to my sensei, is when they 'tear you to shreds to see what's inside you' and 'see how far you can go when the tank's empty'. I won't argue with that.

It's a long afternoon: a strenuous warmup followed by all the strikes, blocks, stances and kicks - interspersed with press-ups because we allegedly weren't responding loudly or quickly enough to instructions.

We go through all the kata from the first one we ever learned - which, by this stage, we have to do many times better than a white belt would - upwards. The red belts sat down after bassai dai, then my group, the third kyus, after our own grade kata, sanchin.

We got our breath back watching the higher grades perform their kata, then everyone lined back up for kumite - sparring. You're still being graded at this point: on your control, and on continuing to put up a good fight when you're beyond knackered.

We did five or six short bouts. I was lucky and mostly fought red belts, plus one black belt who meted out a calculated punishment.

At last came the order Mitts and pads off!, and the grading was over. We knelt and bowed, then the successful students were called forward for their certificate and handshake.

I waited with increasing anxiety to hear my name. I was the last of the third kyus to be read out, but there it was at last.

Most of the others from my region passed too. We grinned and gave each other damp, sweaty hugs. Then I came home and consumed a large quantity of calories.

I'm a second kyu brown belt now, distinguished from the third kyus by a strip of black tape around my belt.

Onward to enpi and a second strip of tape!