The grading was yesterday. It was easier than I thought it would be in spots and tougher than I expected in others, of course. My ribs and the intercostal muscles between them are sore from a few "taps" I received during sparring, but besides that, a small egg on my left leg (someone's bony shin went through BOTH of our shin guards) and a slightly sore great toe on my right foot, I feel great physically.
The format was almost identical to any other grading I've been a part of or witnessed: kata --> self-defense --> tamishiwara --> kumite. In total, it took four hours, but I was not moving around for all that time. Actually, after the invigorating (read: CUP EMPTYING) warm-up, I sat for almost an hour watching kata and self-defense presentations for all 20+ kyu graders and the two shodan candidates, which sucked, as I like to stay warm once I've warmed up/stretched. My back got super stiff and by the time I stood up, I was really tight.
Self-defense was the trickiest part as being attacked by a line of folks (one at a time) - as opposed to doing the techniques with just one uke - was a new grading experience for me. It was definitely "think on your feet time" and it went much better than I expected. I guess all the obsessing over it really helped, LOL.
The higlight of the day was breaking a board with an axe kick - something I've never tried before. When Obasan asked to hold the board for my kick, I was nervous for a split second about missing and actually clocking him in the head, but I forced it out of my mind, concentrated on a tiny speck on the board and let it rip. It was only one board, but it snapped like a twig. One of the other breaks - the same one I've done since my 6th kyu green belt grading: a reverse empi - didn't go so well as the first attempt sent my elbow skidding off the side of the board. Truth is, I was so pumped for the axe kick that I forgot there were other boards to break. Duh! - but the second effort netted a better result. It was pretty cool.
Like all the other black belts in attendance and in gi, I had to line-spar the kyus. Although it wasn't too taxing until we got to the under-belt teen boys (who all seemed to think it was a fight to the death, LOL), I still had about 12 or so 30-second fights before it was my turn to go head-to-head with the senior dans, so I was a little taxed. Each of my seniors started gently but turned up the dial quickly - although they all did acknowledge good techniques that landed, which was great. They were super encouraging, but a minute is a long time to tangle with a seventh-dan who outweighs you by a grip - and I had to do that five times before stepping into the ring with Obasan. Twenty-something and lightening fast, I just knew he was going to chew me up and spit me out in front of the family, friends, spectators and students that were watching. He kept setting me up for hight hook kicks (as in to my head) followed by the most amazing ridge-hand I've ever been hit by, LOL. Suffice to say I saw it coming but could do nothing to evade it at all. Not sure it was going to be my last fight, I was kind of leary about attacking him all out - and he made me pay for that with several strong reverse punches to my ribs near the end that made me pause for a second before I could put my hands back up. You know the technique you just got hit with was a good one when everyone in the room covers their mouth, grimmaces and says "Oooooooh!" all at once. But then the time was up, he hugged me and announced to the room that I was one strong, tough karateka. :-)
And then it was done. The same seniors who were beating me senseless a half-hour before were hugging and congratulating me. It was great to hear the word "Nidan" after my name for the first time, it really was.
One of my instructors was unable to make it to the grading. He texted me last evening to congratulate and ask how I felt. "Legitimate" is what I texted back. Because he was there when I began at the school as a brand new shodan, he knew that I had had a lot of correcting and "re-learning" to do when I arrived. He saw that there were things I should have known then but didn't, and he knew how I'd had to work to alter my path and get to where I needed to be. In other words, he knew exactly what I meant.
"You should," he replied. "Nothing was given. You earned it." That made me tear up a little. OK - it made me tear up a lot :-)
Off to place my new certificate in a frame :-)