The last three days of the black belt promotion were an insane blur. Friday night, me, Charles, and Gordy did kata and self-defense. It went very very well, full of great energy. Then we talked about our essays. (I’ll post mine later this week.)
I then went home and slept as much as I possibly could, because Saturday from 6pm to Sunday at 6am, Charles and I would be in the dojo basically reviewing everything. It was an entire karate life in twelve hours: kata (in every possible permutation), self-defense, combinations, fighting drills, and so on. Plus we did a ton of other exercises, like bag work and pushups and ab workouts and other stuff. And lots more besides — we were there twelve hours. (Don’t worry, we paused every two hours for a water and bathroom break.)
It ended with an hour of meditation, just sitting in the dark with only a candle for illumination.
After that, we got to go home and sleep — for two hours. *laughs* The final bit of the promotion is sparring. That started at 9.30. Gordy was back for that to earn his shodan while Charles and I were exhausted but rarin’ to go. We did twenty two-minute rounds of fighting against seven different black belts — including a couple who hadn’t been in the dojo for a while. Best of all, is Charles’s daughter, Tracey, who made it to second-degree black belt in our dojo before moving out of state. But she flew back for this — without telling her old man, so her showing up at the dojo was a total surprise. It was beautifully done.
Senpai Tracey was also, as it happens, my last fight, and she fought me very hard and well. My first fight was against Senpai Cliff, who was very much my mentor in the earliest days of my white belt saga. And, just like in my sandan promotion, Senpai Harley swept my leg and I fell on my butt.
And then Shuseki Shihan tied my belt on me. You can see it in the picture above: four stripes. I now officially have the title of “Sensei.” After years of teaching, I now have a title that actually means “teacher” in Japanese.
I may or may not have more to say on the subject as time goes by, but for now I’m sore and exhausted and exhilarated. I drove home from the dojo after the fighting playing music really loud and singing along with the window down, and then Wrenn took me to the Bronx Burger House for a desperately needed lunch. Then I took a huge nap.
Gonna take it easy tonight. Tomorrow, there’s a final workout with the entire dojo (everything up to now has been black belts only) followed by a huge celebration at a local Japanese restaurant.
It has been a joy and a privilege to go on this martial arts journey, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s only just begun. There’s lots more to go. And huge kudos to Sensei Charles and Senpai Gordy, who showed tremendous spirit and heart.