Sometimes it’s nice to have a positive reminder.
Tag Archive for confidence
Tonight I was promoted to Sankyu, or 3rd-degree brown belt, in Shuri-ryu karate. That’s not something I’d ever thought I’d be able to say in my lifetime, but man does it feel good.
Not that it was an easy review or test, mind.
While I practiced my butt off for it, I have a bad habit of getting nervous and choking during the actual review process. I could (and should) have made it all the way through the review process on Tuesday, but in working through a set of techniques called ippon kumite kata #10, I kept stepping back with the wrong leg at the end. I did it wrong the first time, then did it right, but second-guessed myself and ran it wrong yet again because the people around me were making my same mistake. By that time I was completely thrown off and got sent off to work on it.
I was extremely upset with myself because I knew better, and though my muscle memory was trying to tell me I was doing it wrong, I let my brain dump a big load of doubt on me and that was all she wrote. Fortunately I was able to take another crack at it and passed, and I was able to finish the rest of the review process and earn my belt tonight.
I have the same crisis of confidence with other things. Call it performance anxiety, stagefright, or whatever, it’s generally when I’m on the spot that I start getting uncomfortable. I have no problem doing panels at conventions these days, and I still enjoy standing behind a busy table. Yet I start second-guessing myself if I’m the center of attention in other situations.
In fact, I’ve been more worried about performing my kata, Empi Sho, tomorrow night than I was about earning the belt in the first place. I get out to Peoria dojo about once a month, so I don’t run my kata in front of the other instructors and students very often. Not only do I have to look like I earned my belt, I have to make my Sensei look good as both a martial arts instructor and an employee of the school. Not to mention all the parents, siblings, friends, etc., of other students will be there watching. No pressure, right?
Honestly, there shouldn’t be any. I’ve been running the kata for 18 weeks now, and while that’s not total mastery by any stretch, it’s enough that I have the movements down and can get through it without getting shredded by other karateka. Ill even admit I’ve kind of been hoping I’d have a family conflict rise up so I could get out of it.
But brown belt’s a big deal. I should be there to receive my belt, and I should be there to support the other students from my dojo who were promoted. So I’m going to call it an exercise in self-discipline and just suck it up and head over there. The Wife is going to come along to take pictures, so I’m calling it a photo op as well. Believe it or not it helps, and tomorrow I plan to share some photos here on the blog and on Flickr.
Watch this space.
As for the future, if yellow belt was the first big milestone in the belt progression, I consider Sankyu the second. There are two more levels of brown belt between here and black belt, and Ikkyu, or first degree brown belt, is the next major milestone. My goal is to make Ikkyu by the end of this year, but I’m going to have to bust my ass to do it. Once I make Ikkyu, it’s a working and waiting game until Shihan Joseph Walker decides I’m ready to test for black belt.
It’s a long way off, but it looks a hell of a lot closer now than it did when I first put on a white belt two years ago next week.
I’ve been looking forward to Break Day all year.
The Academy of Okinawan Karate only does break day once a year, so I made sure my travel plans weren’t going to throw it off. Even the Midget has been calling it his “favorite season” and asked me if it was Break Day before every karate class for the last month.
I broke two boards in each of two breaks this year, once with a fumi komi/stomp kick and once with a tetsui/hammer fist. I knew the stomp kick wouldn’t be tough, but I was a little apprehensive about the hammer fist.
My sensei explained we only hold Break Day once a year to allow for progression. It’s easy to get addicted to breaking boards, and pretty soon you’re trying something you’re really not ready for and it becomes easy to get injured. Case in point, though I only broke one board with a hammer fist last year, I had a slight pain near my elbow that I felt every time I clenched my fist. The only explanation I could come up with? I injured something during the break. It was more an irritant than actual pain, but I really didn’t feel up to dealing with it for the next few months.
I did the stomp kick first, because I’m told that gives one an idea of what two boards will feel like. Makes sense, but of course my arms aren’t near as big as my legs. The stomp kick felt like an easy break, and to be honest I didn’t feel a huge difference between last year’s single board and this year’s two boards.
Nevertheless, I did have a year of conditioning and practice before Break Day. Last year I only had a few months, and as a gold belt I’d only been doing hammer fist for a short time. As I took my practice swings this year, it felt a lot more natural, even swinging all the way down toward the floor.
So I took a deep breath, stepped up to the board, and let out a good kiai with my strike. The boards didn’t stand a chance.
Even better? No surprise injuries this year! My hand stung a bit after the strike, but within a few minutes that passed and now, some sixty hours later, no other pains have materialized.
Now, I’m sure some smart-ass out there is quoting Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon: “Boards don’t hit back.” They’re missing the point.
It’s not about a show of strength, it’s about confidence. It’s a good feeling to know you can do it, and it’s an even better feeling when you can see a definite progression from one year to the next. For the kids it may be about using what they’ve learned or getting in front of a crowd and doing something cool without freaking out, but for me it’s about having the confidence that my karate has had a definite, positive impact on my physical fitness.
I’m already wondering if I could have broken three boards. I guess I’ll find out next year.