November 23rd, 2014


Looking In Different Directions

Is it a sign of aging that everything that happens in the present triggers memories of the past?

We held our last Black Belt Test of the year yesterday. It was a pretty clean test, and all 40-odd candidates passed. One adult man testing for Sandan (third degree) broke a finger during multiple attacker self-defense, alas, but taped it and iced it and finished the test anyway.

One of my adult students tested, and did a fabulous job all around. He started training with me over three years ago, around the same time he'd started college with little firm idea of what he wanted to do. Now, in the fall, he'll be heading off to law school. Double win!

Another candidate, a fifteen-year-old girl, started classes with me shortly after she'd turned four. She was hyperbolically girlie, complete with concerns for her mussed-up hair and the possibility of icky dirt on her bare feet. When upset about something, she'd press the back of her hand to her forehead and sigh. Her family moved when she was eight, and just returned to the area last year, when she resumed training. Now she's taller than I am--so tall, in fact, she did her self-defense against the adult men.

She. Rocked.

And as I watched her, I kept seeing that little red-haired girl who once curled up the mat to sob the first time she tried sparring, who squealed with joy and jumped up and down when she earned her first belt stripe, who used to hug me around my waist at the end of every class.

She went to karate camp last summer--a sort of junior-counselor-in-training--and met up with Dev. It took them three days to connect the dots and remember they used to play with Pokémon cards together. Now they're best buds again, and even spent half of GenCon hanging out with each other. Our families celebrated over dinner together after the test.

Then there's the young junior black belt, on the verge of getting his driver's license, who started classes with me when he was six. The nine-year-old boy who was a newborn when I first started training his mother. The two women who began training with me seven years ago who are now Nidan (second-degree) getting ready for Sandan next year. They've just started a women's-only class of their own at another dojo in our system, modeled after the one I'm running at my dojo.

By rank, I sit just a tad above the middle of our review board. To my right are people I've known and trained with for over a dozen years. To my left are people I've had a hand in training, some for a decade. And now in the junior ranks are the children of those higher-ranking folks on my right, two of whom were not even born when I started karate, and other almost-adults I've watched grow up.

Just... wow.

And on a humorous note...
Since my Sandan test was delayed last year due to the dislocated elbow problem (and is now delayed indefinitely because of the hip problem), I'd shared at the time with one of my test-mates that I'd always wanted to try something... different... during multiple-attacker self-defense. Just to see what the reaction would be. And I told him my idea.

He thought it was a marvelous one. I told him to go for it.

So when he came up to the line for his own test yesterday and gave me a nod, I knew what was coming. Five men lined up to attack him. He put up his fists. Shihan shouted out the order to begin. The moment the five men charged, my friend yelled, "Stop! Back off! Leave me alone!" The attackers hesitated in confusion, and my friend smacked them all before they figured out what was going on. My friend took a bow to laughter and applause.

For some reason, no one was surprised I was the one responsible for the idea. Your voice is a powerful weapon, I always say. :)