Remember the old joke about a man lost in New York City? He asks a New Yorker: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The New Yorker answers: Practice, practice, practice.
Practice is the basis of excellence. Even if you were gifted with a talent, practice hones snd refines your skills. Karate is no exception to this at all. I learned a few months ago what I was doing wrong with my training and I saw the benefit of the switch I made last night at my Belt Test.
A few months back Sensei noticed that my last kata was my best kata. I was proud of myself for about 1.2 seconds. He followed his comment up telling me that my first kata should be my absolute best because I’ve done it the longest. He suggested I work on all of the kata from beginning and working up to my latest and if I make a mistake go back to the beginning. I started doing that during my practice at home.
In class a few weeks laterI discovered my next practice flaw. We were working on basics and Sensei said:
Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until it’s hard to get wrong!
That showed me something about myself. I’m a list maker and I like putting check marks on said list. Done. Complete. Move on.
Karate can seem like a activity where you can make a list and check things off as you go but in reality you can’t. In the beginning, you learn basics and patterns of movement. As time goes on you learn techniques to deepen your skill level. This process is continual.
Last night I tested for my Blue Belt with Black Stripe. This is my final Blue Belt. With the launch of my book, work, and moving I’ve had to practice in any corner of time I could find. I’ve done more practice in the shower, in front of the microwave, and in public places more than I care to admit! The joy was seeing how these microwave moments and my new understanding of practice came into full swing yesterday.
Belt testing usually begins with a workout. More like a You Feel Like You Might Die Session. Yesterday’s workout did. Not disappoint. As I’m typing this I feel like my thumbs are as sore as my abs! After the workout we generally take a break and then Sensei will call each group up to perform their kata and their kumite in front of the class starting with white belts. There are several belt ranks that would test before me so I was looking forward to kicking back and watching the show.
This. Did. Not. Happen!
Sensei called us back to our lines and we did each kata until it was our final kata. I was not remotely expecting that! I had about 2 seconds to ponder what was happening and we started! My anxiety was about to explode but then I remembered that this is just how my practice has been over the past few months and like most Saturday classes! You stay in the group until you’re way over your pay grade and you respectfully bow out. I had to just focus and do what I’ve been doing in the shower but do it in the dojo with scores of people watching… thankfully, with clothes on!
When I walked into the dojo at 44 years old with no clue or expectation of what the next 18 minutes looked like – let alone the next 18 months – I never expected this. The physical challenges, mental exhaustion, and trying to get to Carnegie Hall with all my practice! Another thing I never expected was to walk into a place and join with a group of other human beings searching for their own sense of health, challenge, and purpose. I also didn’t expect to love so much. Karate is a path that can feel like you are walking on your own but every step you take is on the hands of masters who went before you lifting you up and you’re. holding the hands of your peers steadying you on the way.
This was the hardest belt test by a country mile but the one I’m most proud of. I still have a ton to learn, techniques to deepen, and practice to do but I’m ready to continue down the path with the greatest friends a girl could ask for!