It is official… Ben and I are low brown belts. Which means we are now in Level 3 classes, which also means we have a new set of curriculum we have to learn.
Oh, and P.S. It’s not easy. Not even close.
The past two weeks we have been working on a form that includes weapons. In this form, we use kamas. Kamas are (in essence) sticks with sharp blades on the end. Kama is pronounced just like the punctuation ‘comma.’ That is where the similarities end, however, and here is why: if you drop one, you might create a run on sentence and your audience could get confused. If you drop the other one, you could chop off a toe.
So here I am, self-proclaimed clumsy person, expected to execute a form holding a kama in each hand. A form that requires a person to chop, slice and kick. Oh yes, you heard me correctly… kicking while holding a kama in each hand.
Could it get any worse, you implore? The answer to that question is a resounding, deafening, yes.
Not only does this form require kicks, but it requires the mother of all kicks. (Okay, it is probably not the mother of all kicks because I know there are kicks that are harder to execute… so let’s say it is the rebellious-godchild-of-the-mother of all kicks… but I digress…) A kick I have never tried until two weeks ago.
The dreaded tornado kick.The name speaks for itself, but just for grins, I found a gif of a tornado kick used in a tournament.
Here is why I really love this gif… because my first attempt at a tornado kick was less like the guy on the left and more like the guy on the right, inclusive of a small, insignificant kick followed by a fall to the ground. It will not go down in history as a shining moment of grace and athletic ability. <sigh>
For the past two weeks, I have been practicing this form, repeatedly. Would you like to know what all that practice and Level 3 classes has gotten me? Ridiculous amounts of pain from muscles that are screaming with agony. I have not used these muscles like this in YEARS and the past two weeks have been nothing short of punishment.
I am not completely sure my toe hasn’t begged to be cut off, please.
I always knew this journey to black belt would push me to my limits. I am pretty sure I just saw a town sign that says, ‘Your Limit, Population: 1′ on the horizon.
The black belt characteristic I would like to discuss is modesty because as I astounded how our school’s curriculum and levels are set up to promote and individual’s modesty. Just a few short weeks ago, while Ben and I were still in Level 2 and high red belts, we would have admitted that we felt confident in our knowledge and our abilities thus far. However, our low brown belts placed us as the ‘new kids’ in Level 3 next to those that have been working for years to achieve their black belts. It is very humbling to take that step into a new class, with new people, and as the least experienced. It is a hard step to take, but all in all, a good step…
I have been attempting to write this blog post for two months, now. Two months and a week to be exact. I have drafted no fewer than fifteen versions of this exact post but with different titles and content.
I was trying to be light. Jovial. Joyful, even. However, those undertones made every draft seem fake. Un-authentic. Shallow. It took me until now to realize why.
It was because that was not at all how I felt. How I felt was angry (at first), resigned (second), hopeful (third), and joyous (finally). Welcome to my (brutally honest) journey…
Two months ago, Ben and I were testing for our new belts; I was testing for my high red and Ben (who was already a high red) was testing for his low brown. Testing for your low brown belt is a big deal. Low brown is the gateway to the year prior to earning your black belt. It is the beginning of Level 3. Level 3 is the class with the black belts. In Level 3 you are required to master difficult forms that include intricate movements, jumps, kicks and weapons. And Ben was testing to get into it. He was nervous, and honestly so was I.
I was on the sidelines waiting for my test when he was called with the other student testing for low brown, as well as with other students in various levels of brown. Ben knew this was a big test and had practiced his curriculum in the previous weeks, but he was still incredibly nervous. And as he tested, it showed.
I watched him freeze during forms and combinations he knew like the back of his hand. He would doubt his knowledge of the next move, freeze, look around at the other students and then forget where he had left off. With every lapse of memory, his confidence dropped a little further. His frustration was palpable. All I wanted to do was jump up from where I was sitting (which felt like a thousand miles away), and give him a hug. I couldn’t, and instead, I held my breath and waited for the verdict.
As Ben’s name was called to stand and face the panel of seven black belts, my mind was chanting, “Pleasepass, pleasepass, puh-leasepass…” over and over again. It was as the second consecutive black belt told Ben that his nervousness was too evident, it was interfering with the successful completion of his curriculum, and they did not feel he was ready to move onto low brown that I lost focus and felt the room start to fade to grey. It was unanimous… Ben had not earned his low brown belt.
My brain then went into overdrive as I watched my son graciously and respectfully thank the black belts for their feedback. Oh my god, what do I do? Do I get up and walk away? Do I refuse to test so Ben can maintain one belt higher than me? Do I jump up and hug him, no matter how inappropriate? Do I demand that he gets a chance to re-test, even though they don’t think he should? ran through my head faster than a Japanese bullet train going at top speed.
But then I realized that this was a huge teachable moment in my son’s life, and I had to choose what lesson I wanted my son to learn. I wanted him to learn that if we don’t get what we want, we don’t quit… instead we try again and work harder. I wanted him to learn that through hard times, his parents are there to support him but sometimes he will have to stand alone and be a strong, respectful young man. I wanted him to learn that it is through his ability and hard work that he will achieve his goals, not by any of us delivering excuses, exceptions and ultimatums. Because of all those reasons, I stood up and tested.
At the end of the day, I passed and Ben did not. It was bittersweet. Which means it was extremely bitter and very little sweet. Until I realized that even with the disappointment Ben had experienced, he never once said he wanted to quit. His drive and determination were not broken. And we both realized that never again, would we be in separate classes or belt rank – we were the same belt and would stay that way until we both had achieved our black belts. He took my hand and we moved forward as high red belts for the next two months.
During those two months, we practiced and trained hard. We had a daily practice schedule posted and we followed it. It was hard, but we did it.
You want to know where those two months of hard work got us? Yep, you guessed it… to 5280 Karate Academy’s belt ceremony last Saturday where Ben and I received our low brown belts.
And here we are, all smiles:
Today, I would like to mention the black belt characteristic of indomitable spirit in honor of my son. In the past few months I have seen him experience extreme disappointment and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and through it all he demonstrated commitment, determination and respectful behavior. All I can say is, I am so proud and seriously, my kid rocks…