Blue Sash

March 8, 2011

My test for Blue Sash was taken this past Saturday, and it went much smoother than I expected. I can tell you this – missing almost two weeks prior to test day really took its toll. I felt unprepared, or under-prepared to say the least. It took me three attempts to get past my second form, one that I felt very comfortable with. What did me in was the lack of practice coming up to the test coupled with the anxiety of standing alone on the mat in front of a panel of sifus and room full of onlookers.

I understand that tests are supposed to be difficult and stressful. It’s not the same as practicing at home or in class. The eyes on you are more critical, or at least it feels that way. In class I have my sifu there to give direction and guidance, to show me not only what the moves are, but what they mean in the context of a martial application. Come test day, I’m alone on the mat and that anxiety kicks in. I’ve practiced the form, I know the applications and picture them as I’m going through the movements. But still, those nerves are present and distracting. Other students are nervous also, so I am supportive – I know they know their stuff, and I tell them so in our discussions before the test begins. Test day is when we can demonstrate what we’ve learned, and we have learned this stuff well. The pep talks really are for myself as much as anyone else.

The test begins and I’m called onto the mat with two other students. We go through form #1 together as a group, strong. Sifu asks me to show them #2 alone while the others wait in horse stance. I begin the form strong. And then…..blank. I’ve been nervous all morning and now that anxiety is kicking in. I respectfully ask permission to begin again. I start the form strong. And then…..blank. Same spot in the form. I falter. I nervously ask if I may begin the form one more time. I go through that section quickly in my head. I know this stuff. I begin the form strong, then flub through where I blanked earlier. I finish the form, trying not to kick myself, or at least trying not to look like I’m kicking myself. I don’t look down, I don’t grimace, but neither am I smiling, I’m sure. I just screwed up a form I know in front of my sifus and my school, not once, but three times.

I am not the only student to have problems this day, and that is some consolation. None of us are perfect – if we were, we wouldn’t be there. It felt like the rest of my forms were strong. Concentration #1 was effortless, which is not usually the case. I’m usually winded at the end of the concentrations (they’re done with held breath). Sparring was light and easy. Tricks were tricky. #1 club came from an upper belt promoting that day, and it came faster than the attackers of my own rank that I am used to working with, but she went down easily enough. It wasn’t as pretty as I’d have liked, but it was effective. 1 left knife and 1 left knife option went by without incident, save for lack of space on the option, and I’d have cut my hand on a live blade due to a clumsy, mishandled intercept, but I got through it. Again, my attacker was an upperbelt and so the attacks were more aggressive than I’ve been practicing, so I had to step it up. That’s probably why I felt so clumsy, pushing speed where I’ve really only been practicing technique.

At the end of the day, I passed my test and turned in my purple-blue sash. I’m now a blue sash in Kajukenbo Tum Pai.

From here on out, I am making a concerted effort to push myself. Train stronger, practice tricks at speed, forms every day so my head will not get in my way the next time. I’m just glad that this test is in the past, and I’m equally glad that there were lessons to be learned from it.

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