Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Was Rusty On Panic

One of my favorite movies of all time is Always, with Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, and John Goodman. In one of the early scenes, Richard Dreyfuss' character is piloting an A-26 through burning treetops and says calmly "Oh this is good. I was rusty on panic." That's about how I felt last week as I walked into my karate test and found that my evaluator would be The Sensei. Not just any old instructor but the head of our dojo. Not that he's a particularly fear-inducing person, he's really a very very nice guy, the kind of person that you really like as well as respect. Nothing like my first sensei when I took Judo as a teenager who regularly scared the crap outta me. But still, The Sensei is The Sensei, and I knew for a fact that, unlike some of the younger black belts who might be less attentive or more distracted, he would be actually paying attention to everything I was doing out there.

I don't think I'd felt this nervous since I woke up wondering what I'd forgotten to put in all those bags you turn in at the Ironman. There's nervous, which is what I get before every race or big event, and then there's Nervous, which is a sensation I don't really like to feel all that often as it lands in the pit of my stomach with a thud. But here it was, and I just had to use my previous experiences to stuff it down and carry on. In retrospect, I know that I was so nervous because this time I really do want to follow through and get my black belt. I've taken martial arts half-assedly before, a couple of years of Judo and 18 months of karate. But I had never been able to visualize myself continuing on, let alone getting a black belt. My old dojo had a couple of perpetual brown belts that didn't lend one confidence or any kind of road map to seeing oneself as making it to a black belt level. This time it's different, and not just because I have met many encouraging black belts and see a clear path to working through to that level, but also because I started with my kids and I want them to see that you can pursue something all the way, even through the tough parts. If my kids want to get their black belts some day, the last thing I want to do is give them a model for quitting when the going gets tough.

Which brings me back to my test and my thudding stomach. I did just fine. There were a couple of things I muddled through. I'd forgotten my ankle brace and so my side kicks were weak when I had to pivot on my right foot. My wrist sometimes bends when I punch, especially with my left arm. Honestly, if I ever really punched someone with that left hand, my wrist would just about instantly dislocate (due to previous injuries), so it's an unlikely move for me to ever make. But still, it's something I know I need to work on. When I got my results back, Sensei picked up on all of those things, which let me know how closely he was observing. But overall it all went very very well (and thankfully the one time I really did mess up a move, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was looking down at the paper he was making notes on - phew!). I know that having gone through this test, I'll take the next one even more seriously. And some day I'll be taking that one test that I'll have to take most seriously of all!

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