The Date is Set
We’re lined up at the kamiza (spirit seat) at the end of karate class, about ready to bow off the mat. Hanshi remembers something suddenly, steps into the office, then returns to our line with three sheets of paper in his hand.
“Congratulations,” Hanshi says. “You’ll be tested on everything you know on Tuesday, December 1st.” He hands the two white belts and myself our kyu rank test notifications; theirs for yellow and mine for brown. Nate, our nidan (2nd degree black belt) is beaming—he must have known—and starts to clap. Hanshi joins him, yet the three of us remain flat-faced, staring at the notifications in our hands.
It is both an honor and a terror to test for rank in the martial arts and I suppose it always has to be that way. Conceptually, I understand that I have all the knowledge a brown belt needs to test into that rank. Physically, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life but my chi is spread thin because much of my energy is caught planning 2010.
I get home and send Lis (yudansha) a message: “The date is set. 12/1/09—exactly two years to the day since I joined Blue Ridge Martial Arts Academy and took my first ever karate class.” Lis, as always, is encouraging and realistic: “Some teachers like their students to grow into their belts and Hanshi seems to be one. He has consistently challenged you and you have consistently risen to his challenges. Remember, he wouldn’t test you if you weren’t ready.” Later, she writes, “Oh yeah, and don’t ever block a front kick with your hand. Fastest way to a set of broken fingers.”
I make a mental list of all the forms I will be tested on: Taikyoku (sai), Suishi No Kon (bo staff), Wunsu, Anaku, Empi-Sho, Naihanchisho, and Bassa Dai. He’ll add Gopeisho if he feels like it. Likewise, there are 15 animal body forms (three each for tiger, leopard, snake, dragon, and crane) and 30 one-steps (ippon kumite katas, kihon kumite katas, and taezu naru wazas). Add kihon (moving basics), kumite (sparring), pushups, and situps and that’s about 90 minutes with occasional “breaks” during which the question and answer sessions take place.
Here goes…or as we say in the dojo, Osu!