Showtime at the Dojo

Well folks, it’s official.

I will take my Shuri Pine Tree test on Tuesday evening and I will test for purple belt on Thursday evening. “We’re sending you to Alaska with a different grade,” Hanshi said. “You’re going to be ready for this.”

For Tuesday, I’m to phone the dojo when I start running, complete the 3 miles, and hop in my car for the 7-minute drive to the dojo. Then I walk in the door, report my time, and a yudansha will time me for the other events. Assuming I can complete Parts 1 and 2 in under 60 minutes, I pass on to Part 3 which is a written test. For this test I must know the 23 characteristics of the Shuri system, the 8 performance categories and their principles, and the meaning of the symbols and colors on the Pine Tree Seal.

For Thursday, I must know all the basics of my style as I was tested for previously at green belt. I must do 15 animals forms, Ippons 1-10, Kihons 1-10, and Taezus 1-10. I must do all my kata (Wunsu, Anaku, Empi-Sho, Naihanchisho, Bassai Dai, and Gopeisho). I must demonstrate jui jitsu moves from a mount, guard, and cross mount position, concluding in joint locks. I must demonstrate kimenokata take-downs (self defense) from a standing position in half a dozen different ways. I must know why every move is the way it is, how many movements and attackers are in each form, and the translations for all the basic moves from Japanese to English. I must be able and willing to spar with any ounce of intensity that I have left in me. I must do pushups and situps. I must be prepared for surprises.

The interesting thing is that I just learned Taezus 5-10 this week. I don’t know Ippons 9-10 yet. And some of the takedowns I haven’t done in over two weeks. To be tested at the level of purple belt for all of these things is in excess of what my grade qualifications actually are. Hanshi has given me much of the information for black belt (shodon) very, very early in my training. But the knowledge is one thing; actually being able to execute it at a black belt level is another. It’s a good thing that Hanshi understands this. He expects me to be smart about it all, but he also expects that many of my movements will need to be fine-tuned and polished up in the years to some.

I had my first class in martial arts on December 1, 2007. I tested for blue belt (skipping yellow) on April 17, 2008. I test for green belt on March 7, 2009. Five months later, I’m going for the purple.

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