First, the black belt test. It happened two weeks ago and, as luck and my aging brains would have it, I got my times mixed up. So, instead of getting to see the whole test (which included about 20 kids testing for various ranks and a couple of other adults testing for junior ranks), I got there just in time to watch the two black belt candidates do their breaks. Each had selected 5 breaks to complete; whether by accident or design, both included one speed break, one 2-board break, and one cinder block. It was awesome to see. One candidate was a young man (just getting ready to go off to college). Tall and thin, he flowed through his breaks like water. I swear, the boards (and block) broke almost before he hit them; it was all about speed and flow, not about power.
Next up was a slightly older woman (I'm guessing late 20's to early 30's, but no older than that). She moved with confidence and strength from station to station, ending with an attempted 3-cinder block break that she missed only because she angled her strike a bit. She wound up breaking the top block the first time and the bottom 2 on the second try. Anyway, she was a complete contrast to the first candidate: she was all about focus and power.
I loved the contrast these two presented in their approaches to breaking, and I especially loved the fact that it was the guy who embodied the speed/flow while the woman embodied the focus/power.
So part of me was just in awe and wondering (in spite of the fact that I've already done all those breaks myself at one time or another) if I'd ever manage to demonstrate that level of excellence. Another part of me was kind of sad. For the last 8 years or so, the black belt tests I've attended have featured students I've had at least a hand in training (sometimes I've been the primary instructor). This time, I was just a spectator, and I felt like a kid pressing her nose against the glass of the candy shop, watching the "cool gang" hang out eating all the goodies. Another lesson in humility; I need to earn my place just like everyone else. Also a lesson in patience -- it will happen in its own time.
And now I'm going to be testing myself next month and hoping to be promoted to yellow belt. I've already been awarded my yellow tips, so I know I'm on the right track. I'm excited about the opportunity, but also nervous. For starters, if the curriculum sheet I'm working from now is correct, I'll be responsible for 26 different self-defense/jiu-jitsu techniques! That's a huge number, considering that we train, at most, maybe 20 minutes per class, twice a week, on that stuff. Yes, I've been through them all. Yes, I can more-or-less execute them. No, I can't remember them all without notes; no, I can't execute with speed and precision; no, I can't execute against a resisting opponent. Hopefully, relatively little of that is expected at this level! Of course, I'll be studying them like crazy for the next month . . .
I'm not terribly worried about other techniques. I know the forms well into blue belt territory and can execute those as well as anyone in the class (which is as it should be -- false modesty aside, I've been practicing long stances and blocks a lot longer than most of them!). Basic kicks and punches are no problem. Sparring -- well, I'm hoping no one expects much in that realm, as I haven't done it in years, including at NKA. Breaking shouldn't be too awful, either, as I've broken with just about all of the basic techniques except the open hand strikes (chop, reverse chop, ridge hand, etc.).
What I am worried about is the usual (for me): failing to meet my own expectations, which include performing at a level that impresses others. I think that's at least partly understandable -- I want to prove that I've earned the rank I hold outside the school and that my promotions were based on more than just putting in my time. I want folks to see that I've achieved a level of excellence comparable to that of NKA black belts. But the complete truth also includes the far more egotistical desire for people to be impressed with me, period.
I'd like to think that some day, I'll overcome the self-doubt that leads to that kind of desire. I do get new lessons to help me at unexpected times and in unexpected places, and I try hard to apply them. So I do think there's hope.
In the meantime, I've got 26 techniques to learn and about a month to do it in . . .