Trust. It’s one phenomenon that takes so much time to gain and only seconds to lose. Over time we learn to trust and if we’re of the forgiving kind we can even learn to trust someone again. There’s another type of trust and I find that this one may just be the hardest. We have to learn to trust ourselves. Trusting ourselves can extend to doing the right thing even when no one is watching or not betraying someone’s confidence. However, it can go much deeper than that and I find it most challenging during karate:

Trusting what you know and trusting yourself to do it.

Karate is skill and discipline honed over time. Everyday we learn a little more. When we line up in karate we line up in order of rank. Every person in front of you has trained as long or longer than you. When we practice our katas in a group and you see all these black belts and upper belts and they look amazing with crisp techniques and years of training and it’s easy to feel like you are just never going to get there. I look at their work and then look at my own and I still feel like I’m a tangle of limbs and anxiety. This is why Sensei tells us we are not qualified to judge ourselves. I rank that up there with trying to relax. Easier said than done, for sure.

We recently had another belt test. This time we were testing for our green belt. When it was our time to test, I made a mistake. I let all the anxiety of the day get to me and I lost my place for a second. I was over thinking again (apparently, it was a day that ends in Y). I recovered quickly and made it through but I was a little disappointed. I should know by now to trust myself. This thought was immediately confirmed by what happened next.

The next group was green/white stripe belts testing for their green/black stripe. I have to describe the room before I continue so you understand exactly what this is like. Around  the main dojo floor are ALL of the underbelt students testing that day. Then there are chairs around the dojo filled with parents, children, guests, and friends. On the sidelines are the black belts and advanced black belts watching and able to step in for partner work. Basically, there are a lot of people there and many eyes watching you and it can be unnerving. It’s like any potential mistake you would feel like it was being seen on a stadium jumbotron or in the center of Times Square.

When you test with your group you want to be uniform, look good, make your family proud, and cut through all the mental and physical chatter happening all around you. It’s not easy. When the green/white belts went they were a little distracted at first. Sensei then did something I don’t recall him doing in a belt test before. He asked them to do it again with their eyes closed. No outside intervention, no looking at anyone else, just trusting what you know. Then the most amazing thing happened.

When they started again I looked at Cheryl. She was directly in front of me and she was incredible to watch. It was like she came to life! She was completely in the zone. I honestly don’t know how anyone else did because I was completely drawn to what she was doing. Every move was deliberate, crisp, and powerful. There was something completely missing: fear. She showed absolutely no fear. With my eyes closed I’d probably freak out wondering if someone was going to knock into me, if I would trip over my own feet, and a million other potential evils but Cheryl just trusted herself to do what she knows, what she’s done, what she’s trained for the past three months. She completely trusted herself and her capabilities.

I’m constantly working on trying to get out of my own way, to relax more, and deepen my skills and understanding. This will come when I learn to trust that I know what I know. Cheryl really showed that trust and I was just blown away by it.


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