Friday, January 29, 2016

The First Pre-Test

Tomorrow is the first and, according to some, the most important black belt pre-test. This is a four hour test that will determine whether each of us is really going to go forward to the next test and eventually Power Weekend, when we are tested a final time for our black belts. So, this is a really big deal.

These muscles aren't just for show
I have no idea right now whether I'm physically ready. I've done my best, week by week, to get into top shape, and I think that I've had a measure of success. But, I've also had annoying injuries, including shin splints and some persistent bursitis in my shoulders. I've had great running weeks and not great running weeks, and great push-up weeks and not great push-up weeks. The only things that I've been consistently good at are crunches and skipping. So, tomorrow could be physically great, or physically terrible, and I really can't know which it will be in advance.

The expectations for tomorrow are shrouded in mystery, as are the tasks we'll be asked to complete. A few of the people who have already got their black belts are gleeful as they warn us, with a twinkle in their eye, about how difficult it will be (e.g. there will be buckets nearby in case we have to be sick). There's a little bit of that old passage-to-maturity ritual feeling to it - 'we went through this, and now you will go through it, too, and we will keep the secret that was kept from us.' I understand it, but not knowing is obviously what drives the nervousness and anxiety about the testing. It's a mental game, as much as a physical one.

Mentally, I think I'm doing alright. I know that my emotions are my weakness. I sometimes have exercise-induced asthma, but I know how to control it. It first happened in high school, during a rugby game. I was in pain, exhausted, hot, and pissed off. Through the experience of years, I have figured out that it's fine to be in pain, fine to be exhausted, and fine to be hot. It's the pissed off part that gets me into trouble. When I feel frustration mounting in my chest, I know that my throat is about to constrict and the wheezing will start, and suddenly I won't be able to get my breath. I know how to talk myself back from that by telling myself to calm down, and breathe deeply. Tomorrow, keeping my temper in check and receiving each new instruction with calmness (joy, maybe??) will be my greatest challenge.

Last night I dreamed that my red-topped attendance card (a large rectangular piece of card stock that is used to record our attendance, and is colour-coded for belt level) had a thick, bold black line across the top of it. I didn't wake up feeling over-confident about this weekend. At first, I didn't even connect it. But I'm a bit weird when it comes to dreams; I think they often give us clues about ourselves and our actions. I think my dream was showing me the future, but not in a prophetic way; it was showing me something that I want and will be true, as long as I keep working as hard as I have been, and stay dedicated.

I'm not worried about failing the test tomorrow, but I also don't think I'm going to get a gold star at the end. For me and my teammates who have been working hard since September, this will be a difficult but possible challenge to meet. I will meet it; I will try so hard to surpass it. I'll try to be as sharp, as quick, as strong as possible. I won't be perfect, and I'll be in pain and exhausted, but I'll be calm, and take joy where I can find it, and keep my eyes on that bold black line.

1 comment:

  1. Update: the pre-testing went well, I think. It was very challenging, and it's only now (over 24 hours later) that the muscle soreness is fully coming into itself. There was a moment of deep reflection when I felt my first wave of nausea and looked at the clock, to realize that only one hour and ten minutes had passed. But I have to say, even in the middle of the testing, I knew I was having fun. Lucky for me, I get to do the same kind of test over again in just about 4 weeks. #hoorah

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