It had been noticed and remarked upon that Shihan had spent a lot of time over the last few weeks picking me up on little details of my kata and picking on me to ask questions. At the end of Tuesday's class he asked if I wanted to give it a go, and since it's been three years since I graded to shodan-ho I thought I'd better.
In the event, the grading was nowhere near as tough as my last one, which was genuinely one of the most horrific experiences of my life and made the soles of my feet bleed.
There was one other shodan-ho grading to shodan, and we were very grateful for each other's company when everyone else had sat down and we were left demonstrating our grade kata, seppai, in front of instructors, fellow-students and assorted friends and family. Then a spot of sparring, always my least favourite part, then a cooldown, then relief that it was over followed by the agonising wait to see if our names were called as a pass.
Mine was, and my fellow black belt's, and the three other students from my dojo. There were hugs and handshakes and congratulations, and our nicest sensei presented me with a bottle of wine. (I kissed him.)
Since my last grading, I've held the rank of shodan-ho: black belt, but technically a provisional grade until I achieve dan status. Shodan, or first dan, indicates that I'm a 'proper' black belt.
"I'd better start behaving myself, then," I said to my instructor.
"Or you could just continue being you," he told me.