Monday, February 25, 2008

Shodan Shinsa in Chiba

Shiramizu students going for their shodan or nidan rank! The student in the red/white tracksuit top in the front is Yusuke, Arakawa Sensei's oldest son.

This past Feb 23rd was the Wadokai Shodan Shinsa (Shodan examination) out in the neighbouring Chiba Prefecture, at an elementary school in Urayasu City, also home to Tokyo Disneyland. Out of the 80 or so people attending, 12 of us were from Shiramizu- 9 testing for their shodan and 3 (including me) for nidan.

The day started off at 10:30 with an hour and a half training/seminar. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, just lots of ido kihon. We then broke off into groups and had some kata and kihon kumite practice. At 12, we stopped for lunch for an hour and, at 1, the actual examination started.

With so many people, it was inevitable that there was a lot of time spent not moving, which makes it difficult to stay warm. Luckily, the sunlight was doing a rather decent job up until 4pm or so, so it wasn't too bad. But still, even with the 1st kyu students going up 5 at a time, it wasn't until nearly 3pm that it was my turn.

For all the 1st kyu students, it was a set of kihon (simple chudan tsuki and mae geri), followed by all the ido kihon except tobi komi tsuki and tobi komi nagashi tsuki. After that, they had to perform the kata of their choice (seishan and chinto were the favourites) in a staggered start manner.

For nidan challengers and above, it was exactly the same except with the two tobi komi ido kihon and two kata instead of one. They also trimmed the number of people testing from 5 to 3.

After all that, which took about 3 hours, there was a short break before we sat back down to do the kihon kumite and jiyu kumite. Those testing for their shodan did ipponmei only while nidan had to choose one out of the first 4 and the one out of the last 5. Then we went straight into jiyu kumite (with no gloves!). By the time we finished, it was nearly 5pm when the judges went off to decide the outcome.

To be honest, while the grading was a great experience especially in terms of being able to perform under pressure, I learned the most in the days leading up to the grading itself. There's a lot of intangible elements to sport and karate is no exception. A lot of different elements of the timing and feel of the muscles and the movements are all things that I've been discovering as I put in all the hours at the dojo for self training and regular classes.

For me, particularly, I've always had an issue with being tense and the harder I try, the more tense I become. So one of the things I've been slowly discovering is how to try harder properly- to be able to try without adding more tension. I'm still not there yet, but prepping for the exam has helped with some insight on that.

But aside from all that, I'm happy to say that everyone from the dojo passed! So congratulations to all and now it's nose back to the grind stone as we reach deeper to further ourselves because, as I realised on the way home, getting here is by no means the end.


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