Today Alex and I graded to 1st Kyu (black/brown) in Ishinryu karate. That is the final level before black belt, or shodan and, for our first time, it was combined with the black belt grading.
Our grading took about two hours and it was physical and exhausting, but I was left with the most delicious of buzzes afterwards. Truth be told, I actually rather enjoyed the grading, despite struggling to fall asleep last night on account of nerves.
A few years ago, at my green belt grading if I recall correctly, I emerged from the grading feeling like I failed instead of the pass I was given. I was angry at myself for messing up the things I thought I knew.
The next grading was different. The most important difference was I learned to relax.
Karate is both hard and soft. A strike is hard, but between strikes you relax. It’s important to let your movements flow, to be hard and strong when you need to, to pause and recover in between.
I learned too that there were issues outside of karate that were causing stress. Once I addressed those, everything improved.
I was quietly confident that I would pass. I knew I knew my stuff. The real question was if my body would hold out.
I gave it everything today. Even Sensei told me that I could go a bit softer, look after my body. But after all this time I knew when to go hard, when to let the body recover. At one point I felt so exhausted I wanted to fall asleep, so at the next break, while others watched the black belts perform, I shut my eyes and virtually meditated until I felt recharged.
Alex was more worried. But to his credit he worked with me and the book and tried his hardest to prepare, while still achieving at school and playing tennis. And achieve he did, gaining entrance to the enrichment program at high school and receiving science and citizenship awards at yesterday’s school assembly.
It was an absolute privilege to grade with him. It’s special to share experiences with your children and to watch them work so hard to succeed.
So Alex will be starting high school in 2021 as a first kyu, which is absolutely amazing as ours is a dojo of international standard. Both of us have learned so much on the journey so far. Next stop, black belt!