Sunday lunchtime found me in a school gymnasium in Sidcup, longing to get started so I could stop feeling so nervous. The grading lasts four hours, which is a daunting prospect, but once you get going it passes quickly.
It was a good grading, I thought. Sometimes you feel as if you're being tested on how much pain you can endure rather than your skill level, but yesterday's, for once, seemd to be more about karate than sadism, and the times we were treated to fifty press-ups we had genuinely done something to deserve them. It was still hard enough work that not only my gi but my belt was soaked by the end, mind.
I looked forward to showing what I could do in the kata section, though I was dreading the bit at the end of my grade kata where you have to jump in the air, turn through 360° and land in an at least half-decent back leaning stance. (I got through it OK, ditto the bit where you stand on one leg and rotate slowly anticlockwise.)
Four or five rounds of sparring and a cooldown, then it was time for the most difficult part of all: waiting for your name to be called out, if you'd passed, or alternatively not called out. Midway through the First Kyus it was my turn to sprint round to the front, bow and shake hands with our senior sensei, and receive my certificate. Several of my class were grading - my sensei and two others to black belt - and we all passed. Grins and hugs all round, a group photograph, and a second strip of black tape wrapped around my brown belt. Next stop: black!
Afterwards I went to the 7 Diner with Howard, who had kindly come along to support me. I had a much-needed New York Chilli Dog and a peanut butter milkshake before dispatching him back to Dorset down the M25 and heading home myself to have a nice hot bath and climb into my onesie.