Sensei was wearing a suit with the club jacket- he helps coach the state teams and he’s seriously professional about what he does. There were desks set up to grade, and he got his subordinates (the black belts) to instruct the gradees on the moves they wanted to perform. Due to miscommunication (between sensei and the sempai, and the sempai and us), a whole bundle of nerves, and just plain carelessness, I made plenty of mistakes in the first few minutes. Wrong techniques, not listening to instructions, it wasn’t looking good. When it was time to rest I felt disappointed- if it was a normal class I think I would have excelled.
When it came to kata I was feeling better. My limbs weren’t as heavy because I wasn’t concentrating as intently on what I was being instructed to do- it was familiar, a matter of combining all the elements of good technique. I wasn’t perfect but I was much more in control of my body. One of the highlights was watching Kentaro move- that boy (13?-years-old) has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the martial arts, and he takes them very seriously. His balance, form and power were superb- he was so perfectly in control of all his movements. I was very impressed. I hope I can move like that some day.
Ippon, sequences of counter-attacks, was next. I forgot to kiai on most of them, and I hit Albert square in the chest on the very first one, but I felt like I knew more about what I was doing. It went smoother than I could have hoped for, and while nerve-wracking, wasn’t terrible.
Kumite was next. Normally I love sparring. It’s a chance to apply technique and learn timing and distance in live combat. I didn’t score a single point (I think the score was 0-4 by the end), but I continued to learn about myself and the weaknesses of my fighting style. I’m looking forward to sparring again so I might apply what I’ve learned. I basically got my arse handed to me though, but I like to think I received it gracefully.
The end result? Each of the sempai gave critique on how we did, offering insight to improvement and complimenting us on our strengths. Sensei reinforced this, adding his own advice.
For me, my nekodachi (cat stance) is too coiled- I need to extend and open it a little. My techniques can sometimes fall short so I need to stretch them to their limit to score in tournaments. My kiai was negligable (which surprised me- I’ll have to work on my ‘secret technique: paralyzing shout’) and my kime (focus point) was poor. What that means is that all techniques should be focused on a certain point- a punch should be directed towards the solar plexis of the invisible opponent in front of me, and all my energy must go into penetrating that person’s body. That point is called kime, and something I’ll need to work on by visualising the point I wish to attack as I execute all my techniques, offensive and defensive. Finally in sparring I must not be afraid of getting hit. By backing away, I can never counter- I must face my fears and learn to negotiate the millimeters between a hit and a miss so that I might return or even land a strike.
All in all, shout louder, stretch further, have no fear and pretend every technique is for real. In recognition of my prior training, I received the rank of 5th kyu. I was honoured- I was barely hoping for 6th. I will try hard to live up to sensei‘s expectations. Henceforth I will actively seek to learn the higher level techniques so that by next grading, I am ready to go for 1st kyu, if not 1st dan. Ambitious, but I will train as if I wear the black belt already, so that I might be ready to accept it some day.
I’m enterring Yoseikan’s "Tournament of Champions" on the 20th of March. If you’re free that day, come on down to watch me get whooped again. I’ll buy the drinks if I manage to score a point (a feat I’ve never accomplished since joining karate). Hope to see you then!