My break was short lived. Mr. Mc called me back, looked at me, and asked why I didn't have my sparring gear on. Several of the black belts had their gear on, and all of the colored belts had been wearing their gear since the start of the test. I told him that he didn't tell me to put it on. The conversation went something like this: He said, "Do I need to tell you? Shouldn't you know what's next?" to which I replied, "Yes sir" to the first question. With a smile, I added "Well, you're the one who wrote up the test." (Ie: I had no idea of the order of the test). Everyone had a good laugh and Mr. G demanded to know where that attitude was during the rest of the test.
First up for sparring was yellow belt Mo.G. from the kids' class. Before we started, Mr. G asked me to identify the level of experience and what kind of spar it would be. I told him that she was a new yellow belt (no sparring experience) and that it would be a teaching spar. This spar lasted about a minute. I got into a low stance to compensate for the height difference and worked on getting her to move and throw techniques first, then combinations. I gave her some targets and showed her what she could throw at me.
The first spar went quickly, and before I knew it, I had a new opponent standing in front of me. Green belt w/ stripe A.G. Once again, Mr. G asked me the level of my opponent and what kind of spar this was. Green belt is still a teaching spar, but they have a greater range of techniques, use combinations, and just move more in general. After a minute or so spar with A.G, I sparred his green belt brother, M.G. Both of these spars were about the same. I told both boys that they should use their angles more and not stand directly in front of me, because I have greater reach, whereas they need to use their size and speed to get around me.
Blue belt J.M. was up next. Blue belts are notorious for being the most difficult belt rank to spar because of a combination of sheer power and a lack of good control, so I knew that I had to be on my toes (literally) for this spar. Plus, he being fourteen and as tall as I am, I did not have the benefit of having reach on him. From the get go he was very aggressive. More aggressive than he's ever been when sparring me. He's looking toward testing to brown in the future, so I'm sure that wanting to do well in front of the black belts was a contributing factor. I was already pretty tired, and having to deal with an aggressive, fresh blue belt was difficult.
Things got really interesting when Mr. R.S. stepped in to spar me. Mr. G warned me that he is super fast, kicks like a mule, and not to stand still because I would get hit. I've only sparred Mr. R.S. once, and that was in class shortly after I earned my brown belt. This spar was much more intense then the first one. I admit that I was mostly standoffish for the first couple minutes especially and I was too flatfooted. I tried to analyze and figure things out mid-spar, which is a definite no-no. I thought too much when I should have been concentrating on attacking and defending. About thirty seconds to a minute into our spar, he threw a roundhouse kick followed immediately by a side kick. I wasn't hit by the roundhouse, but I was not expecting the side kick to come that fast. It caught me while I was standing straight on and connected solidly with my midsection, lifting me off my feet and throwing me to the ground. Oh, that hurt! Plus, it knocked at least half the air out of my lungs and I had to kneel on the ground for about a minute or so. I wish I had a picture of it, but it's only on video. One of the dad's of the students took a video with his phone and showed it to me on Thursday. I've gotta say that it was a beautiful shot. Pain and having the breath knocked out of me aside, I got back up and continued that spar that lasted about two more minutes.
Immediately following the spar with Mr. R.S., Mr. M had Mr. J.S. come spar me. I don't think this one was planned beforehand, because Mr. G asked Mr. M what he was doing. Mr. M said that this was a puzzle I had to figure out. At this point, Mr. J.S. got into a very straight on, deep, power stance that we just don't practice in class. I was told later that it was a Shotokan fighting stance. Curious as to what he was doing and what I was supposed to be figuring out, I began trying some things. I threw a hard roundhouse kick to the back of his knee, and while it turned him a little, he just took it. As I moved, trying to get an angle, he just moved with me so that he was always facing me. He did not initiate much, but he did get in a good backfist(?) to my head...or maybe it was a kick...or both. I'm not really sure. I did take one technique that immediately left me with a headache. Great, more pain! Anyway, I finally did get inside and he covered up, so I just started wailing on him with hand techniques.
Then, the dreaded 2 on 1 spar was upon me. I've been told that the 2 on 1 spars are usually two brown belts, but as I am the only brown belt in class and the next highest ranked are blue belts, my instructors decided to go the other route and have two black belts spar me, Mrs. C and Ms S. The goal of the 2 on 1? Survive. Plain and simple. Takedowns, knockouts, and grabbing one person and throwing them into the second person are perfectly legal. I've had very limited experience with 2 on 1, so this was an interesting spar. My main strategy was to concentrate on getting one person out of the way and so I only have to spar one of them. That did not happen, but I did employ strategy #2, which was, in simple terms, choosing one person to be "Monkey in the Middle" (like the game) so that the middle person is in between you and person #2. The spar was mainly me running around the room while the rest of the black belts took places around said room to keep us from getting too close to the walls and tripping over the students sitting over the back. That's why in the picture below, it appears as though I could be up against four people. Thankfully for me I wasn't. I have to say that during the 2on1, I really wanted to have a chance to spar Ms. S 1 on 1. She was in my face most of the spar, and I wanted to see how I would fare against her. Later, I found out that my instructors were planning on this spar, but time was running short so it did not happen.
After this spar ended, Mr. G pulled my red belt out of his gear bag. I immediately remembered what he had told me previously about this. He said that he would have my red belt somewhere behind him, and I would literally have to go through him to get it. I knew that this was coming. I believe at this point, I asked for water, because I knew that sparring Mr. G was going to be...interesting to say the least. I wasn't thirsty as much as every time I took a breath, a sharp pain in my side accompanied it. Mr. O said no to my request, but Mr. G said yes.
I drank some water and tried to breath normally once more, then I headed to the center of the room where Mr. G was waiting for me with my red belt folded up on the floor behind him. He reminded me of what he had told me earlier, and said that if I could touch the belt, whether it be with my hand or my toe, then I could have it. I took a deep breath to steel myself, and we started. Mr. G kept a very narrow stance, almost standing straight up. Getting in close and striking fast with our hands is one of our favorite things to do, so after a minute or so of me staying out in kicking range, he let me close the gap. I got close to my belt, but he wouldn't let me get past him. Mr. G almost bent over, and I'm still trying to get past him. Finally, I hear calls of "Knees! Knees!" from the black belts and I realize what he's in position for. I grabbed his gi at the shoulders and drove two knees up into his abdomen. Now I'm hearing more calls from everyone to touch my belt, so I reach out and step on it, then pick it up.
I returned to the center of the room, my red belt held tightly in my hand. Mr. G approached me and reached out for the belt. I reluctantly handed it to him, and he told me to take off my brown belt. I started to fold it neatly, but Mr. G said that I wouldn't be needing it any longer, so I tossed it to one side. He presented me with my red belt and I turned around to tie it.
If tying a belt after two hours of a tortoruous test while still wearing sparring gear and trying to keep my hands from shaking doesn't sound hard, I'll be the first to tell you that it is!
After I turned around, Mr. G let me go get some water, and when I returned, the black belts were all in a "black belt huddle" at the front. Even though I was wearing the belt, that huddle still made me nervous. When they came out of the huddle, Mr. G told me to fall off to the side, and as I did so, he told me that they had changed their minds and were going to take the belt back. I knew it was a joke, but at the same time, I was imagining what was going to happen to the person who tried to take back my belt. He told me he was just kidding. Just as a side note, humor like that when the test is not over and decided with, is not at all appreciated by the testee.
The black belts all lined up and they called white belt M.C. up. They awarded her a 9th kyu yellow belt, and she went back to sit down. I was called back up, and Mr. G proceeded to tell me that there was no reason to tell me the results as I was wearing my rank. All of the black belts then made their comments about the test overall and about me in order of rank, starting with Mr. G.
All of the class was then told to line up, and we dismissed. The students were told to congratulate me in the traditional way. That is, shake hands with the person who tested and wipe your dirty, nasty feet on their gi. As if I wasn't already dirty and sweaty enough.
That is a brief (haha) summary of my test. It was by far one of the hardest things that I've ever done. It's also one of the top things I've done that pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I don't believe that I can find where my comfort zone used to be.
I came out of that test soaked with sweat. I think it was Mrs. C who hugged me and then said, "You're wet!" My t-shirt and gi were soaked all the way through. Both found their way into the washing machine as soon as I got home.
But in the end, I earned my 1st kyu red belt. That is an awesome feeling. It was a test that I'll remember the rest of my life. It also helps that the entire thing was filmed, so that will help. I can't wait to watch it. At this point I'm waiting on Mr. Mc to put it onto a dvd for me.
My injuries from said test were minimal, which is good. I have around half a dozen bruised on my forearms. One is the size of a baseball and is still black and purple. That one swelled up until I took an Advil for the inflamation. My cheeks are bruised to the touch and the corner of my forehead is also bruised from Mr. R.S. punching me when I wasn't fast enough on my self defense. I have a few small cuts on my arms and an abrasion on my foot from who knows what. Half of my index purple turned black and red around the joint and swelled up a little. I have no idea what happened there. I can only guess that it happened during my improvisation during my combat speed self defense. As far as soreness goes, I ached all over for a good three days. The worst were my arms from my wrists up to my shoulders.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the test. I have several areas that need work and in the coming weeks, I'm sure that we'll tackle them both inside and outside of class. I'm also looking forward to taking a trip down to our sister school for a workout in the coming months. Also, I've been told that a requirement for black belt is to compete in two tournaments or visit two different styles of martial arts. I'm hoping to be able to do both. Starting now, I have lots of practice to do, tournaments to prepare for (later), and a lot of hard work to put into each and every class.
Now that the test is over, I can't help but think of what's next. I don't think that the black belts gave me even five minutes to focus on my red belt before they began mentioning the next rank. Black belt. There are no set time limits between red and black which is scary to think of. I just earned my red, so I don't really want to be thinking of black next, but it is in the back of my mind. I'm not eager to test for that anytime soon though. I'm going to enjoy being a red belt for a while.