No luck needed, please send focus – Christine prepares for her 3rd Degree Black Belt Test

This time last year, I was wrapping my mind around the fact that I would soon be testing for my 3rd degree black belt. Then, I broke my wrist and those plans went out the proverbial window.

At the time, I wasn’t sure when I would get to test – it’s not just a matter of me being ready or not, there are a lot of factors to juggle – and it seemed like it was a long time away.

It’s not a long time anymore.

If all goes well, and pending my instructors’ final approval, I will be doing my 3rd degree black belt test on Sunday, February 10th.*

I have to perform 15 patterns (including a demonstration pattern – one step at a time, explaining the purpose and method of each step), do drills, step-sparring, ring sparring, and break some boards.

I’ve been practicing all of those things, especially my patterns, for weeks now. Well, I practice regularly anyway but I have been practicing INTENSELY for weeks and my brain is full of bits and pieces of patterns, remembering the little quirks and memory tricks I have for each one.

The author, a white woman with her light brown hair pulled back from her face with a cloth band stands in front of an orange wall. She is wearing a white martial arts uniform and glasses and she is smirking.
Here’s my smirky self after my first class of the 2018-2019 year.

Even though I’m doing a lot to prepare, this is still going to be hard.

Luckily, I am testing with 4 other people and they are all much better than I am so I am constantly challenged to improve. I’m not putting myself down – they are testing for 4th, 5th, and 6th degree belts and they have a lot of experience that I don’t have…yet.  

It’s been great to train with them because they can help me bridge the gap between where I am and where I want to be and, to a person, they do that with kindness and encouragement. Thanks Heather, Cathy, Joanne, and Barry, I am so grateful for your help!

And while I’m thanking people, I’m going to give a shoutout to Kevin, my dear friend and mentor, who has helped me iron out all kinds of tricky bits of my patterns.

I could use this post to illustrate all the things that I’m struggling with (because I am VERY aware of every area where I am not quite getting it yet) but I don’t think that’s a good approach. I’m at the point where I need to just keep forging ahead, making changes here and there, not aiming to be perfect but aiming for that magic level of practice where I’ll feel confident and capable. That is totally within reach.

This afternoon will find me at the back of the room during other people’s classes, doing my patterns over and over again while I work out the glitches. Then I’ll put that practice to the test by working with Master D for a while, she knows exactly where my hands and feet should be at every point in the pattern and how fast they should get there.

I am VERY grateful for Master D’s time and expertise and working with her will make my patterns much, much better but I’ll be nervous the whole time. Understandably, standing alone in front of an expert**, trying to execute a series of moves with skill and precision, is a little intimidating. In fact, there is nothing more likely to make me forget what I am supposed to do next.

It’s funny how I can stand up and tell a story or perform a monologue with no preparation, or even make one up on the spot, and it doesn’t faze me in the least but asking myself to do something physical – even patterns I have practiced hundreds of times – makes my mind go blank.

Blank mind or not, my Saturday practice with Master D is an important part of my preparation for the big event on February 10.

Photo shows a whiteboard with green trim with black text at the top that reads 'Countdown to 3rd Degree' There are 24 circles with dates in them and 7 circles are coloured in with black marker. Text below the circles reads "PS: Just do the thing. Start. Work. Be Done.'  and then there is a list that reads 'Patterns, Boards, Drills, Theory' with check marks after each word. There is a timer, a star shaped magnet and a smirking emoji magnet at the bottom of the whiteboard.
I decided to keep track of the days until my test and my work in each of my practice categories. The visual is really encouraging for me. (I haven’t broken the boards while practicing, I have just done the kicks and punches.

Usually, on the morning of my belt tests, I post on Facebook that I don’t need luck (because, after all, chance favours the prepared) but I do need focus and calm so I will accept any offers of those two qualities. So, I am going to ask you for the same.

Please send along any focus and calm you have to spare, today, next week, on February 10.

I promise to put it to good use for my practice and for my test.


*And that’s just the physical part, I actually do my written theory test on Tuesday, January 29. I’m generally pretty good at written (or verbal) tests but I find it tricky to translate my physical knowledge into words, so we’ll see how that goes!

**I know that as soon as she reads this, Master D will prep a comment to say that she’s not an expert and that she is still learning. And, of course she is, that’s the nature of a martial art, but she is a MASTER and that’s close enough to an expert in my books. *Christine bows respectfully to her instructor*