Archives

Freedom to Learn

I had a good class last night! Not because I was buzzing from an energy drink and a chocolate-frosted brownie, even though I was. (Ugh. What was I thinking??)

I had a good class because in a flash of brilliance, I realized I don’t test for at least 3 years!!! I admit I’m relieved at not dealing with my freaky test anxiety for awhile, but that’s not what I’m excited about. I’m excited because now I can just enjoy learning!

There’s a freedom in being in a post-test phase. I can focus on the lesson without worrying that I need to work on my test material. Or being afraid that my brain might lose something important if I try to stuff something new in there. Or wishing Kyoshi would only teach test material until the test was over.

I know I shouldn’t think this way even pre-test, but I can’t help it. It’s how I’m built. If I have to perform at a test, and it is a performance, I want to focus all my energy on getting ready for that test. The closer we get to the test date, the less I want to stray from test material.

But now, instead of thinking “How does this help me at the test?” I can embrace new ideas. I can play with them, think about them, see what works or doesn’t work for me.

It’s very freeing to realize I can just learn without worrying about performing! I can spend these next few years gaining a better understanding of the things I’ve been learning the past 6 years.

It’s freeing. It’s luxurious. It’s exhilarating! And I’m really excited about this time ahead of me!

Advertisements

Prepping for Black Belt Class

Tomorrow is Saturday and Saturday means Black Belt Class. At the crack of dawn. 8:00. In the MORNING! Crazy.

I have never been a morning person. Ever. It’s hard enough to get my brain going early in the morning (and usually I don’t even try), much less get my body moving. I’m not coherent before mid-morning.

So how does a girl who rarely makes it to work before 8:30/8:45ish manage to attend an 8 am class? I bet my boss is wondering the same thing! I don’t think she reads my blogs so this will stay just between us.  😉

It’s all in the prep! Before I go to bed I will choose what I’m wearing for class, as well as what I’m wearing for the commute. I’ll lay out exactly what goes on my body after my shower and pack everything else in my gym bag.

Sadly, even this plan isn’t fail proof, as one time I got to the dojo and didn’t have my gi, but Hanshi was kind enough to lend me one of his. I was hoping for some 9th Degree Black Belt mojo in that borrowed gi but that morning I learned the mojo is in the person, not the cotton. 🙂

I’ll put my gym bag, weapons and water jug at the top of the stairs so I don’t leave without them. I really am that muzzy in the morning! If I didn’t put things where I’d trip over them, they’d be left behind. Tonight I’ll pack a couple of snacks for the morning and put protein powder in the shaker. Blended protein shakes take an extra 5 minutes, which is asking a bit much of me in the morning so I’ll have the not-so-tasty shaken shake.

Before I go to bed I’ll set my usual 3 alarms – 1 with music, 2 with annoying tones. Speaking of annoying tones, it might be time to change those up; I’m becoming immune to them. And then I will attempt to go to bed earlier than my normal 11:30 pm and please, please, please beg the sleep fairy to visit.

Tomorrow, when all 3 alarms have gone off and I’ve hit all the Snooze buttons too many times, I’ll drag my butt out of bed, take a shower so I can be clean before I get all sweaty, pop some Aleve and slurp a protein shake on the way to the dojo. I’ll be Little Miss Sunshine when I arrive, and all the other students will be joyous to see me! Well, maybe “joyous” is a bit too enthusiastic, but hey – a girl can hope, right?

Now that I read all that, it seems like a LOT of work just to over-exert myself at some crazy-early hour! But it’s two months to my next Black Belt Test and I need the extra workout. Just to make sure I get there, I’ve got some incentives. After class I’ll reward myself with a pedi and a massage on Sunday. And maybe a nap. Most likely a nap!

Pick, Pick, Pick

My knee is nudged forward into a better stance.

The Shodan candidate does her self-defense move again after being reminded she forgot the chop to the neck.

Kicks are tweaked to be stronger, faster, higher. 

Arms are moved ever-so-slightly into the correct position.

‘Tis the season for nit-picking! With the next black belt test just a few weeks away, we know our material. We’ve done it enough times that we can do things without stopping to think about what comes next.

Now it’s a matter of working on the nuances, those things that make our performance even better. They’re teensy little things, maybe even trivial to some, but it’s the tiny little things that show the difference in ranks. This is where the true understanding of what we’re doing shows. This is what makes the difference between dance moves and a good understanding of our art.

Now, instead of Kyoshi teaching us new material or walking us through moves, he is fine-tuning us. Reminding us of those little things, making corrections when he sees errors, and running us through things we’re not sure of.

Sometimes it feels like we’re being corrected on the most minuscule things. And sometimes it feels like we’re just beginners and starting over. But this is all part of the learning process, and just the fact that we’re at the stage of being nit-picked is a good thing! After all, it means we have achieved a certain level of knowledge and are on our way to more. 

For now it’s pick, pick, pick. All to make us better, and all done with love, of course!  😉

What a difference…

I went to the Hombu for Hanshi’s classes tonight. I’m happy to report my bad attitude did not attend with me. 🙂

I led warm-ups for the Family Open class and, oh gee – I must have forgotten to have everyone do push-ups!  <wink! wink!>

I learned a new kata in Brown & Black Belt class, which was encouraging, then got some focused attention from Hanshi on my newest bo kata in Weapons class.

Overall, it was a great night of classes and I’m feeling pretty good.

What a difference a day makes!

What does Nidan look like?

Defense Sets at Black Belt Test

Sets with Sensei Dave, my fantastic uke for my black belt test.

One year ago I tested for my Shodan rank. If all goes well, I will test for Nidan in another year.

Through kyu ranks to Shodan, there is a lot of material to learn and memorize: basics, drills, self-defense sets and kata. With so much to learn in four short years, I couldn’t say I was a master of any of it. I was just putting the building blocks in place. With my Shodan rank earned, I am still not a master of anything – except putting my gi on correctly, and there are days I’m not so sure I’ve mastered that!

The path from Shodan to Nidan is different from the path to Shodan.

The requirements to Shodan are laid out very clearly. The path to Nidan? Not so much, as far as I was concerned. I wasn’t really sure what Nidan looked like, and that made me a bit uncomfortable. When I’m uncomfortable, frustration isn’t too far behind – and that’s never pretty. I can’t hit a target I can’t see, and can’t chase a goal when I don’t know what it is.

I spent my first four years learning 10+ kata and eight sets, one after another. To advance to Nidan, I have to demonstrate two additional kata and one more self-defense set. That’s not a lot of material to learn in two years, so obviously memorizing kata and adding to my repertoire is not the point. So what is it?

It took me a while (longer than it should have, I’m sure!) but I’ve come to realize the time between Shodan and Nidan requires a shift in thinking.  My path is no longer about memorizing material. It’s about what I can do with the material I’ve already learned.

With relatively little new material to pick-up, I have time to really focus on my basics. To make them crisper, faster, and smoother. To work towards mastering them.

I can explore what I’ve learned so far, looking at things with a more experienced eye.

I’m learning what my go-to moves are and what works – or doesn’t work – for me.

I’m learning what I would really do at the end of a self-defense move, as opposed to what has been scripted for me.

So what does Nidan look like? It looks like a better Shodan.

How different will I look as a Nidan? I really don’t know. I’m sure I will not have mastered all my material. That’s a longer journey than this short two years. But I will be on my way, now that I have a better understanding of my goal and what to focus on to get there.

My Love / Hate Relationship with Black Belt Class

I have a LOVE / Hate relationship with 8 am Black Belt Class.

 

LOVE: Black Belt Class

Hate: Getting up at 6 am to be there by 8. Ugh.

 

LOVE:  Being the dumbest (aka lowest rank) in class.

Hate: Being the dumbest in class.

 

LOVE: Learning new and different concepts.

Hate: Being so slow to pick up on new things because I’m not awake yet.

 

LOVE: Getting my workout done before noon.

Hate: Trying to get my protesting, crunchy body to move before it’s ready.

 

LOVE: Having Hanshi tweak my techniques.

LOVE: Working out with the advanced belts.

LOVE: Seeing friends at the hombu.

 

The LOVE far outweighs the Hate. Guess I’ll set my alarm and go back once in awhile.  ;-D

When the kata doesn’t come easily…

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.

~Abigail Adams

I’m learning a new bo kata and it’s not coming easily. For whatever reason, I had to have Renshi slow down and show me small chunks of the moves – and he’s had to show me several times. At one point I was so frustrated with myself that I stomped my feet like a child.

But after I rolled my eyes, threw my head back, and stomped my feet, I got back to work. With some focused instruction from Renshi and some additional coaching from another student (thanks, Alex!), I finally have a portion of the kata down. But just a portion.

As I was reminded, not everything is going to be easy. I know that and I’m OK with that. Part of the fun of learning is tackling challenges; in fact, if everything was easy, I’m sure I’d get bored quickly!

Over time I’ve learned those things which present the biggest challenges also have the potential for the biggest rewards. This is one of those things. So I’m working on my kata in class. I’m doing an extra run-through or two after class. And I’m mentally doing the kata while I’m walking the dog or holding myself in a plank position.

I’m looking forward to getting this kata down. To having all the pieces in place and being able to run through the whole thing without prompting. At that point, my reward will be the satisfaction of accomplishing something that didn’t come easy. Of knowing I worked hard, put in the extra time and effort, and worked through my frustration.

Now…back to work. I’ve got a kata to learn!