Road Ending: Must Take Next Exit

When I received my First Degree Green Belt promotion last August, my plan was to test for my Brown Belt in the spring. I was aware, even then, that I needed to step up my game a little. But spring was so far away, and there was Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and an early start to the winter that demanded comfort food like grilled cheese sandwiches or macaroni and cheese. Cheese.

Once the new year rolled around, I started wondering when this fabled test might happen. I was simultaneously excited and terrified for it. I knew it would push me to my limits, but I also knew that I wasn’t ready for it. I both wanted to get it scheduled, and did not want in any way to go through with it.

Last week, one of my senseis made it a point to start reviewing some of my techniques. That usually only happens when someone is ready to be promoted. I took that as my personal sign. Before I could talk myself out of it, I requested that a date be set for my test.

On Friday, May 3rd, I will be testing for the rank of Brown Belt in Kempo Jiujitsu.

Squeak.

Of course, ninjas don’t squeak. We become one with the shadows and wait for the right moment to silently take out our enemies. But I’m not quite there yet, so I’ll squeak.

I need to remember and flawlessly perform forty-two techniques, right- and left-handed. I also need to perform eight forms (hopefully not both-sided, but I’ve heard rumors), and throughout this five-hour test will be tons of physical training.

In order to do this, I’ll need to focus heavily on cardio for the next few months, strengthening my lung capacity and endurance. I’ve got a loose plan, because if I have a specific one I won’t do it. I’ve got rest days and yoga/easier days mixed in with tough ones.

White belt, black gi me.
Baby Ninja me, tying my belt at home because it took me fifteen minutes to figure it out.

When I started this journey in December 2016, I never expected to make it this far; heck, I never had aspirations of a higher level belt. Not until I hit my first intermediate level. That’s when I realized I had a choice: I was either doing this for the heck of it, or I was freaking doing this.

I’ve been at the intermediate level for a year now, and things change once you get up here: the techniques are harder, the falls are more intense, and the possibility of getting seriously hurt is always one “oops” away. Much like the yellow belt exodus—when many people realize this will be more work than they thought—that brown stripe on the green belt scares people away. Because nothing after that stripe will ever be easy again.

For some bizarre reason, I keep coming back. I believe the consensus in my last class was I’m insane. So here I am, facing the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life. I’m not exaggerating for effect here. My main goals for this test—in this exact order—are: 1) don’t puke, 2) don’t pass out, and 3) earn a brown belt.

I’m scared out of my mind for this test. And I want desperately to get that brown strip of fabric. In fact, I’m so scared for this test, I’m using this blog post as an excuse to not start my morning workout. How’s that for self-sabotage?

But here I am. The exit is just over this last hill. The thing is, it’s less an exit than an interchange, bringing me directly to the Road to Black Belt. And I’m going to take this road as far as I possibly can.

Because I’m insane.

My kempo belts to date: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue/stripe, and green/stripe.
Soon, there will be a brown belt on the shelf, with the green sitting nicely on top of the blue.
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