Brianna’s black belt grading…

First I should explain that this wasn’t the actual grading. What she went through yesterday was the pre-testing, to determine who is worthy to attend the actual grading, which will occur on Fri Nov 26th, beginning at 8pm, and which should only last 2 1/2 to 3 hours as opposed to the grueling 8 hours they put her through yesterday.

And grueling it was. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they’d allowed the candidates regular breaks for a drink. As it was, there was one 10 minute break after 3 hours, and THAT WAS IT! I was absolutely shocked at that! And disgusted. In our culture where people take a bottle of water when they walk to the mailbox, how could we even consider expecting people to perform at their peak physical standards when they’re verging on dehydrated? And what about food? Brianna had breakfast around 7:30, then she had a banana at 11:30, during their 10 minute break, then when she was in the changing room putting on her sparring equipment, I snuck down with a granola bar for her to wolf down.

In my opinion, this is not testing their ability, their skill, their knowlege, their technique. Rather it is a ridiculous test of endurance and nothing more. In fact, I think it borders on cruelty and inhumane treatment to expect them to work as hard as they were with nothing to eat or drink the entire day. And I should clarify, the testing began at 8:30 and finished at nearly 4:30. That’s the equivalent of a full work day, and most people don’t work anywhere near as hard as the grading candidates did, and legally while at work for that length of time you are to be provided with regular breaks and a lunch period.  No, I’m not impressed.

Having gotten that rant out of my system, I can say that it appears Brianna did well. She preformed well in basics, paced herself nicely in kata, taking her time and making sure everything she did was correct to the best of her ability. She did well in weapons, and even held her own during sparring. Well, except for sparring one person, of whom she is very afraid. During their sparring match the judges actually asked her if she was afraid of this opponent, and she said yes. They asked why and she said she’d rather not say, so they asked if he had at some point done something that had scared her, and she confirmed that. After it was all over, he came up to her and said he had no idea what he’d done that had so scared her in the past, but whatever it was, he was sorry, and that he’d never intended to scare her. Nice of him, I thought.  Not convinced it’ll change her opinion though…

Brianna cracked at two points. The first was during shoulder rolls. They had just finished a round of breakfalls, which she hates, and were going through various shoulder rolls, which she also hates. She had landed kind of funny after one, but did a couple more, then when they got up to two people lying on the floor for the others to roll over, she asked if she could be excused. Of course they drilled her on why, asking if she just didn’t want to do the rolls. She replied that yes, she wanted to do them, but her head was hurting and she was afraid of passing out. Hmm…think maybe a drink or some food might have helped??? Anyhow, they allowed her to stop – and she became the third in the line to be rolled over. She was really upset though, perhaps more at herself than anything, and was crying. It was right after that point that they were allowed their one and only break, so we were able to settle her down before she had to move on to the next part.

The second breakdown was during the sparring, when she was hit in the stomach and couldn’t breathe. Her opponent kept pressing her, going after her quite ferociously, and she couldn’t hit back, or even block because she couldn’t breathe. The judge ended up stopping the fight and going over to settle her down because by this point she had started crying in pain and frustration. She did calm down, and she went on to finish her sparring time relatively well.

At the end, apparently it is traditional for the candidates and the grading panel to toast with a shot of Japanese saki, which startled Brianna greatly. Perhaps more so she was shocked that we gave our permission for her to try it. She didn’t much like it.

So that is the first part over and done with, and I assume she will be invited to the actual grading in two weeks. It won’t be nearly so bad though. Oh, and for the record, she did get all her written work done, and Sensei told me he especially enjoyed reading her essay. We also got the photos done on time, and let’s not forget The Grading Fee, in its little white unmarked envelope…..

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