This is a season of firsts. One is directing belt promotions at my dojo as the ranking instructor. We have five belt groups, all with their own specific testing material, different breaking requirements, and various numbers of fights (single and plural matches). I am deeply grateful to the extra fighters who stepped up to give my students plenty of challenging rounds.
An unexpected first was being nervous FOR the candidates. In a way, I am testing too. If they do poorly, I may have failed them in some way. Their performance reveals not only their weakness, but mine as well. Just like refining metal, the imperfections come to the top. Without testing, I may never see the deficiencies in their technique or in my teaching. Metal cannot reach it’s potential strength without removing the imperfections.
It can get painful aside from the obvious punches to the face. Punches to the ego don’t heal as quickly, and one doesn’t show off emotional bruises as one would proudly wear war wounds. The process is humbling. It takes courage to put it on the line, endure testing, take correction, and have the discipline to fix the flaws.
Everyone fought with heart, no one quit when it got tough, and all the boards broke (eventually). There was minimal bloodshed, no broken bones, an appropriate level of bruising, and three dislocated ribs. The best part of that day was following the formal bow out. We gather in a circle, arms slung over shoulders, everyone damp and disheveled, and I looked into all their tenderized faces and said “I’m proud of you”. We all learned something about how far we’ve come and what we need to do to continue moving forward.
p.s. One of the lessons was “don’t block with your face”…that’s one worth writing down.
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