Sunday, June 30, 2013

...And A Fun Time Was Had By All

Remember that joy I touched on in the last post? I just realized that I spent so much time detailing the ugliness that happened at the end of the grading that I totally forgot to tell you about all the wonderful things that happened up until that point - namely that our school promoted its first student to shodan :-)
Training partner Ed ties on Andrew's new belt

Meet Andrew. He'll be 20 in a few months and began karate about five years ago. We met at my old, old school (two senseis ago). He followed training partner Ed and me to our new locale about six months or so after we began. He's a wonderful young man - hard-working, dedicated and in love with all things martial, despite the slight mental challenge he has. He is, by far, one of the hardest working and most resilient folks I've ever met - often arriving early and staying as late as possible - even when he has to leave early from class to get to work (although it exasperates his mom - who, I'm sure, often wondered how she would drive from the dojo to his job site in the five minutes he'd given her because he wanted to get just one more kata or self-defense technique in before he bowed out and changed clothes).

Andrew is one of the only folks in the dojo who is as tall as I am (he's actually a little taller - about 6'3"). When we spar, I try to encourage him to use his length, the one thing that seems to be hard for folks with long limbs to realize is a true advantage. Like me, he tends to want to fight "small," choking his kicks and punches in order to blend in and look like everyone else. Been trying to have him extend and do what those long limbs of his are totally capable of: reaching someone who thinks they are "safe" and out of striking distance. We've been saying this for a while now: when that young man learns how to reach out and really touch people, not too many folks will want to stand in front of him for kumite, that's for sure.

Last Saturday, he worked his butt off during his three hour grading. By the time sparring was to begin, he'd been through a thoroughly cup-emptying warm-up, bunches self-defense techniques, every kata in the syllabus and tameshiwara against three boards that snapped like twigs and a cinder block that did not even wiggle when he tried to go through it. Suffice to say he was pretty exhausted - so much so that his gi was so wet from his sweat that it was dripping.

Still, he had 18 30-second to one-minute fights to get through. At one point, I had to pull him aside and remind him to conserve and reserve, because he still had quite a few folks left to spar and he was going at everyone like it was the last round. The black belts on deck were literally salivating...

Quite a defensive fighter who normally waits for the attack then counters, he was so tired near the end he could barely keep his hands up. But then a wonderful thing happened: he stopped thinking and began re-acting. Here is fight #16 - against a 9th-Dan - where he simply did what his instincts told him to do, resulting in a near joint lock of Hanshi McGrath's ankle. It was so very cool to watch because a fresh Andrew never would have seized that opportunity (and yes, that's my big mouth you hear during the round; I always forget that cameras record sound, too!).

So, yeah, foolishness at day's end aside, A good time really was had by all - including Andrew and the 27 other students who graded that day. Congratulations to them and welcome to yudansha, Andrew!

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