The test itself was simple, but really good. We were a small group of nine adults variously testing for yellow, green, and blue belts. I have taken classes with all but one of them, and I felt that we created a good, supportive atmosphere for one another. I gather that tests traditionally begin with the junior belts. White belts test one at a time, with each student going non-stop through all the various components of the test. As fate would have it, I went first. I had an "easy" beginning, with basic punches and kicks, followed by the first two forms. I liked that I was able to demonstrate some things I'm good at (technique, speed, focus, power, etc.) before we got to the hard part. From forms, I moved straight into a one-minute free-spar against a kicking shield that my instructor held in various positions while moving around. I put everything I had into it, and was so glad I've been conditioning! After all the kicking and forms, this got hard; by about the 45 second mark, I was flagging and really having to work to get my kicks and punches to connect with anything like power. Finally, as soon as the timer called an end to the round, the instructor tossed the bag and started "attacking" for the self-defense/jiu jitsu portion of the test. This was, as I expected it to be, my weakest area. I had a couple of brain freezes and had to think hard about what I was supposed to do, but was generally pleased with my execution overall.
My part probably didn't last 5 minutes, but it felt longer and was definitely a good combination of physical, mental, and spirit challenge. I then got to relax and watch everyone else. Boy, are there some talented students at the school! It was really interesting to see the differences in strengths from one to the next: one of the other white belts did the most gorgeous free-spar; another had an unusually extensive jiu-jitsu repertoire because of his additional training; one of a pair of 40-something sisters had profound authority in her forms, while her sister had the most fluid jiu-jitsu of anyone. It's really an honor to be training with these people.
I had only two disappointments, and both are matters of pride more than anything else (and therefore good lessons in humility and patience). I felt that I could have performed 100% of the yellow-to-green-belt test with no more difficulty than I saw in the people doing it, and about 97% of the green-to-blue-belt test. So part of me was definitely thinking "Hell, I want to do that today!" But when I'm being really honest, I do recognize that, while my karate is in fine shape, I still need a lot of just plain time on the mat to pay those dues and to get my jiu-jitsu where it needs to be. And, although part of me will always want just that little bit more, the best (and far larger, fortunately) part of me is actually fine with that. The other was that I wasn't asked to participate in the board breaking. That's because I broke 4 boards with side kicks last week during a series of self-defense demonstrations at ODU, and I think my instructor wanted to spare my feet (and possibly his inventory). At the time, I was bummed because I wanted to prove I could do it, just like everyone else. But really, what I actually wanted was the two-board break that the yellow-belts tried -- and I'm just going to have to wait for that, too.
Anyway, when it was all over, I had my always-to-be-hoped-for good feeling about the test. I did some things well and could have done others better, but I didn't hold back and didn't beat myself up over my mistakes. I got to watch some other really neat people challenge themselves and succeed, and got to hear a whole lot of people, many of whom I don't know, congratulate me on a good test. I was reminded once again of what a great community of people train at this school. And somehow, taking my first test gave me an extra sense of belonging that I didn't realize I'd been missing until I felt it. It was like finding that last piece to the puzzle, somehow, and making the whole thing complete.
Now I just need to get through a stupid virus so I can get back to train. I gained some great insights on how to improve my training -- what techniques I need to work on and how, and what kinds of conditioning I need to add to my usual routines. I want those two boards!