Saturday, November 21, 2015

Karate Test Day

Today was a Shinsa day for the North American Beikoku Shido-Kan Shorin-Ryu Association.

To translate that, it was a black belt test. All black belt tests for karate practitioners of the association are held in Lansing three times a year. There are pre-tests you need to pass before you can proceed to the test, and test-takers from all over North America attend - we had people from Canada, New Jersey, New York, St. Louis, and Michigan there today.

I had passed the pre-tests and was permitted to test today.

The test began at 9 am. I drove through blowing snow to get to Lansing and arrived at 8:15. I checked in, changed, and started stretching out. The judges assembled, all seventh degree, or higher black belts and the test began.

Each person was called in order of rank (ie everyone testing for 1st degree went first, then those testing for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th) and then alphabetically to do their kata alone in front of the judges and the spectators.

The katas were announced as Passai Sho, Kusanku Dai and Chinto. You will always do Chinto, but you do not know which two of the four katas: Passai Sho, Passai Dai, Kusanku Sho, and Kusanku Dai you will do until they blind draw them on the day of the test.

You do all three in a row, starting with the Sho, then the Dai, then Chinto.

Kusanku Dai is also unofficially known by the names "You Count And I'll Die" and "No Kata For Old Men".

Here's why:

Interestingly enough, the sensei in this video was present today for his 5th degree test. He looked even better today.

Kusanku Dai lived up to its reputation today as "You Count and I'll Die", almost killing a few test-takers' hopes.

After each of the 16 testers individually came forward and did their kata, four testers had to redo Kusanku Dai due to mistakes. You're allowed to blow one kata and redo it after everyone else has finished, and if you blow it again you're done. Luckily they all settled in and redeemed themselves with really good retakes.

Happily for me, I had no mistakes in any of the kata and felt pretty good doing them. Feedback I received later was they were some of my best demonstrated efforts yet.

Then we all went to the basement of the dojo to continue the test.

We had to hit the Makiwara (striking post) with three punches from each arm, then we had to kick a bag with 3 front, 3 side and three roundhouse kicks with each leg.

Then we had to try and break a board.

The boards were one-inch thick pine, hanging unsupported by a clip from a string from the ceiling.

You had one punch to try and break the board. If you hit it wrong it wouldn't break and then it would swing and fly off the clip at rather high speed.

Of the 16 testers, only 7 were able to break the board.

I was one of them:

You get to keep the board as a souvenir if you break it.

Then we all headed back upstairs.

We did kumite (2-person drills) involving kicks, punches and throws in set combinations, both right and left sides.

Then we did Bunkai. Bunkai are set interpretations of the various kata and involve a defender in the middle surrounded by three or four attackers. Again the attacks are set and the proper response is set and typically involves a block and counter-attack which can be a strike, kick, throw or combination thereof. There were four bunkai and you were expected to not only be able to properly do all the actions in the middle as the defender but also be a proper attacker from each angle as well, including knowing how to fall properly and be thrown head first in one bunkai.

The test ended at 12:30 and the results were announced.

I'm pleased to report that I passed the test and am now a Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt).


OldAFSarge said...

Well done Aaron!

Having studied the martial arts long ago, I know they are not easy and not trivial. Just remembering the moves in a kata is something.

I say again, Well Done!

Aaron said...

OldAFSarge: Many thanks, good sir!

juvat said...

Not sure what all that meant, but congratulations!

Murphy's Law said...

Never doubted for one minute that you would do it. You worked hard for a long time. Congrats.

Aaron said...

juvat: Thank you good sir.

Murph: Thanks, it was a very involved and challenging test and I'm happy I passed.