My black belt test is at 4PM today.
I am incredibly excited and incredibly nervous.
I keep telling myself that I don’t need to be nervous. I know my patterns, I know my step-sparring and my self-defense. I am prepared to spar, and I definitely know my theory.* I passed my pre-test, and several black belt friends have told me that I am doing well. There is no reason for me to worry. Yet, I am completely aflutter here today, and most of yesterday. Not panicky, I think even my brain has to admit that I know my stuff, but I’m still working through fear of the things I don’t realize that I don’t know.
The real key to getting into and even enjoying my test today is to bring my full focus to the task at hand. I know that and I am working on it. I have done these patterns a hundred plus times each, and I have been going to extra classes to really set them in my brain. I have been practicing in the test space**, both in order to get some extra practice time in AND so it becomes a more neutral space in my mind. I have been practicing relaxation techniques, and doing yoga to ensure that my brain can relax and I can be fully in my body instead of just being a jumble of flickering thoughts and what-ifs.
This is the hardest work – convincing my brain to just be where I am, not worrying about the next step, not wondering if I am doing okay, just being. The thing is though, I seem to have a very narrow sweet spot between overthinking and just checking out when I am doing my patterns and the like. It takes a lot of energy to stay in that place where I am focused on the now, without going right to a place where I am not thinking at all.
When I think too much, I hesitate and I lose my rhythm. When I check out, I make many micro-mistakes, slightly wrong stances, I put my hands too low, I don’t turn far enough. When I am in that sliver of a sweet spot, I trust that my body knows what it is doing, and that the next moves are there waiting for me. It’s great when it happens, but I have not yet figured out how to get there on command. I wish someone could wave a magic wand and grant that to me.
I know when I arrive at the test today, I will be told not to overthink, to just relax. And I will do my best. I will breathe deeply and I will try to keep my focus on the movement at hand – and at foot 😉
And in the mean time, I will repeat Dame Julian of Norwich’s wise words – ‘All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.’
*Theory is my strong point. Memorizing, comparing information and dealing with facts from my brain instead of depending on my body to do what it is asked to do? I’m all over that.
**Our school has two practice spaces – one is my regular class space and the other one I usually only go to for testing – even though students in that area attend classes there all the time.