It kind of felt like I was “Livin’ On a Prayer” more than a few times this week. Unfortunately, I woke up with a sore throat on the day before the six week progress evaluation and had to work through feeling sick all weekend during testing. Currently, I sound like a cross between Kermit the Frog and Lauren Bacall – or maybe… Yoda.
I stayed late each night to practice defense – even on Thursday night when I had a 100.5 temperature, which was odd – the fever – because I never usually get them. This past weekend my training group was evaluated for knowledge of defense and forms, as well as physical fitness – which is my strength, honestly. I did not miss a movement with any of my forms, but I have corrections to make regarding how I throw my strikes and blocks. According to one of the instructors, I have made improvement with “the lines” in my forms, though. My defense was fine – I only blanked out on one out of fifty-four, so I don’t feel terrible about it. I just wish I hadn’t blanked out on any, which brings me to some serious introspection that I need to factor in at this stage of my training: the idea of not being “perfect.” Actually it’s more about forgiving myself when I make mistakes and not dwelling on them than being perfect.
Last night I found an excerpt from a book by Bodhi Sanders called Modern Bushido: Living a Life of Excellence. I am much more a reader of fiction than self-help, but this book comes highly recommended in the martial arts community, so I figure I will grab a copy in the coming weeks. The following is what caught my attention:
Wearing a black belt does not mean you are invincible. It means that you never gave up, worked past pain, overcame the disappointments, faced your fears, and learned enough to realize how little you actually know.
For a long time I had the perception that in order to be a black belt you had to pass every evaluation with flying colors. Obviously, the standard for excellence is high at the school I attend. I honestly do not think that most karate schools put their black belt candidates through a four day test. Clearly, we need to perform to the best of our ability and know our content, but before I started the twelve week training I had this impression that I would be transformed into a flawless martial artist. I also thought that the instructors would not be satisfied with anything less than perfection. What I have found out is essentially the opposite of that. From what I can tell so far, humility is an important part of the process; although the instructors want you to be confident, they also want you to realize that you are, in the end, human. The fact is that everyone makes mistakes, gets injured, or is nervous – it is how you respond to such stimuli. Will you focus on the positive and not dwell on the errors? Will you work through the challenges? Will you overcome your anxiety?
Now that I have a clearer idea about what the test will be like, I need to be at peace with the waves of nervousness that wash over me every once in awhile when I think about the final testing week. I have always tried to fight my anxiety, which leads to mental paralysis, especially in a high pressure situation. I am beginning to learn that nervousness is part of the whole experience, and instead of fearing the nerves, I want to get to the point where I can breathe through them and perform. Black belt training is, in part, about the physical test, but it is also about your mental acuity. One of the instructors has told me many times that the test is 90% mental. It took me five and half years (and six weeks of black belt training) to get here, but I am starting to understand that now – not just hear it.