“It took a hundred times
to remember the moves,
a thousand times
to make them beautiful,
and ten thousand times
to grasp their essence.”
My final week of black belt training came and went. Now, it is Sunday evening before the test week and I am excited, nervous, energized, and probably every other possible emotion. The testing week will go as follows:
Monday, 5/2: 8:45 p.m. – Written Evaluation
Thursday, 5/5: 6:00 p.m. – Oral/ Section I Physical Exam
Friday, 5/6: Time to Be Announced – Section II Physical Exam
Saturday, 5/7: 5:30 a.m. – Reaction Course Run
As I think about the past several weeks, I am automatically reminded of all of the positive energy and support that I have received from the women who take karate at my school. The adult karate class is now at a point where several women are advancing through the intermediate to advanced ranks, and most of these women are in their 40s. I am a firm believer in age being relative when in comes to maturity, but when is comes to wrist locks, takedowns, grappling, and sparring – age is certainly a factor. In addition, martial arts schools in the United States were once dominated by men. With that said, it makes me proud to say that two of my female karate friends earned their brown belts this week, three earned their blue belts, and one earned her purple belt, which means they are all (a) no longer beginners and (b) the brown belts are only two years from having the opportunity to train for their black belts, as well. This is incredible considering that when I started approximately six years ago, the only other woman older than 25 who was in the adult class was already a black belt. When I started, also, the class was almost completely teenagers. There has been quite a shift.
During my black belt training, one of my fellow karate and kickboxing friends never failed to send me one (or many) inspirational quotes on a weekly basis – sometimes daily. One gave me my own little Yoda training voodoo doll. I wore a black belt hairband that the kick boxers gave me for Christmas last year and a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt that says “Hit Like a Girl.” One gave me a bracelet that has the word WARRIOR inscribed on it, which was particularly meaningful because we started karate at the same time, but she needed to stop due to reasons beyond her control. All offered words of advice and wisdom regarding injuries and injury prevention. Many checked in frequently with text messages or in person at the karate school. But what was most profound and impressive was the spirit of support and encouragement that I have received. They have always had my back. I have always felt their desire for my success, and this is rare among competitive and driven individuals, which are certainly qualities of anyone jumping into martial arts training – even if their competition is within themselves.
As I prepare for a challenging week ahead, I know that I have my karate and kickboxing ladies by my side and am bolstered by their spirit. Furthermore, I am grateful for my husband and my mother who have given me their ultimate support and have picked up my slack for several weeks, and to my instructors who have offered me their wisdom and belief in me. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work for my black belt and I would not have been able to do so without the support of my husband, in particular. I am anxious to come out “on the other side,” as one of the black belts (who, coincidentally, was at my introductory lesson) refers to as the time after the test. I am anxious to be on the other side and to have the storm of the twelve week training subside, but I also want to be present and absorb every ounce of experience that I can out of this next week. It will certainly be a time for reflection; I am so different from the thirty-four year-old woman who walked into the dojo door years ago. I was one of those white belts who immediately wanted to be a black belt, but I was completely unaware of what a journey it would be.