The Black Belt Test: “Daring Greatly”

Whelp, I passed!

I realized a few days ago that I never even made a post about the test results.  It honestly took me a full week to become some semblance of my true self again.  In the meantime, I walked around in a fog trying to process everything that happened.  The test truly is life-changing; there is no doubt about that.

Some black belts told me that after the last day of their exam, they went home and slept the day away.  I had a meeting with my instructors for test results at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and I did not fall asleep until midnight. I watched one of my favorite comfort movies, Juno, went to bed at 12 a.m., and then promptly woke up at 3 a.m.  My mind was still reeling and, according to my husband, I was still kicking people in my sleep.  I did not even sleep in on Sunday, which was Mother’s Day, but I did receive coffee and fresh fruit in bed.

Sleep really was not possible for me during the testing week. I  think I slept a total of about six hours in the 48 hours of testing.  On Friday night before the Saturday morning woods run, I just lay in bed…sweating – trying to use positive visualization strategies – but mainly just sweating.  I received two text messages from non-karate (and I make that specification because I am so touched by how in tune they were to where I was emotionally) friends in the early hours before the last leg of the test – one at 4:30 a.m. that said, “There is a part of you that has been waiting for today.  You will do this!!” And one at 5:15 a.m. that said, “You’ve got this!!!  Can’t wait to hear!!!”  I also received an email at 4 a.m. from my sister who lives in Oregon that said, “I’m heading to bed. And, in two hours you’ll be running around in the woods, being a black belt. I’m gonna light a candle for you.  You got this.”  The spirit and energy my loved ones provided for me during this experience was remarkable and unforgettable.  I just want to place a little “thank you” here for the many other text messages and phone calls (and even a cake delivery) that I received on the day of and after the test – I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness.

The card reads:  “You made it to the other side!”  She reads my blog! These flowers (from my sister who lives in Oregon) were on my doorstep the day I passed my test.

In the end, it is near impossible to put the black belt test into words.  Also, at my karate school the black belts are asked not to speak about the specifics, which is a request that I not only honor and respect, but truly understand.  Each test is a little bit different, and although I do not think it would have changed my decision to take the test, there are some elements I am glad I did not know about going in.  I can tell you this:  I never expected it to be easy, but parts of it were certainly harder than I could have ever imagined.

During my week-after-the-test-haze, a friend handed me a book by Brené Brown called Daring Greatly.  He highlighted a portion of the book and said, “Hey, this is exactly what you did.”  The passage read:


Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.  We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be…with courage and the willingness to engage.  Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.  This is vulnerability.  This is daring greatly.

And that was a huge compliment.  I appreciated the sentiment, but I am also humbled by the lesson and hope that I can live the lifestyle Brown is espousing.  My karate instructors talk often about the pressure to be “perfect” and recognizing that, as much as we strive for success, no one is ever perfect.  Furthermore, something that really struck me about the black belt test experience was that at the beginning of every testing segment, the instructors recognized that we showed up – because, literally, getting there was truly half the battle.  I already discussed my Friday night sweats before the Saturday morning portion of the test, but I also experienced a complete anxiety-ridden, uncontrollable hunger strike that my body put me through on Friday before I had to report to the test at 6 p.m.  I could not eat.  I was nervous as all get-out, but I drove myself to my test and showed up and let myself be seen.  There was a time in my life where I may have froze at the wheel of my car.  A time when I may have let anxiety get the better of me and become paralyzed with fear.  I see this as one of the most tremendous examples of how much I have changed through my martial arts training.  This time, I knew I would show up.

After the test ended on Saturday, my training group and I were given some time off until Wednesday and Thursday evenings, when we needed to start preparing for our Black Belt Graduation.  The graduation is where we will be officially presented with our black belts.  The ceremony is this Saturday evening at 6 p.m.  During this week we are practicing Monday through Thursday evenings for our group and individual performances.  I am not a stranger to the stage, having acted in my high school Drama Club and having taken “Beginning Acting” during my sophomore year in college, but I am also not one to bathe in the limelight.  I am proud of my abilities and I am eager to receive my belt, but of course, the graduation is one more layer of challenge in the black belt experience.  I realized that, when you are a black belt, you are expected to live a little beyond your comfort zone.  I will walk into the arena again on Saturday evening and perform my self-defense, kicking combos, forms, and breaks – hopefully with success – and certainly with the mindset to dare greatly.

I can’t wait to hold that belt.






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