I went early today and made up everything I’d missed last night and the night before. I was still definitely sick and under recovery, but I had to go, so I went.
It took a lot out of me just to hold up my hands, let alone do the self-defense techniques, and multiple times in a row. We usually yell on the last strike, and it felt really odd not doing that today (saving my throat from torture, you see, and helping me to keep breathing as a whole – even a deep breath would send me into a fit of intense and slightly scary coughing).
After that, people started showing up for the fight night. We each sparred 16 people for 90 seconds on ongoing sparring each. The ongoing part means that we have no break during those 90 seconds – the clock doesn’t stop, and neither do we.
It was tough, especially being so short of breath and low on energy to start the whole thing. But I made it through, and decently well. I even received several call-outs on having done a great job sparring, which was quite unique and cool. I don’t typically have a bunch of people watching me spar… nor do I have them watching me spar for 16 rounds…
For our last round of 90 seconds, when we are at our end of energy and have our last effort to give, we are meant to spar the person who has been the most influential for us in our karate career. Now, that can be interpreted in various ways, though most people choose their main instructor for this last match. Not all, but most.
When I thought about this, I wasn’t sure whom to request. It went weeks without my knowing what to say or do about it. Eventually, when we were discussing my predicament, my instructor asked whom I wanted for that match, “If you could have anyone, who[m] would you pick?”
Instantly, I knew. “Sam C—,” I said. She smiled sadly, and understood why I had had so much trouble. The most influential person on my karate career had been my original instructor, when I was in the junior division. His classes were the whole reason I returned to the organization years later as an adult, as opposed to going to some other form of self-defense or fighting training.
He also passed away a handful of years ago, and I had only learned of this fact when I re-started karate a few years back.
My current instructor had only joined the organization after his death, and had not known him personally, though she had, apparently, learned much of him. He was a spectacular teacher and coach. And he was terrifying, in a sense – you were going to do as he said, and without hesitation – yet it was clear that he loved and cared about his students. I never consciously thought, He loves me, or anything like that. But, if I had been asked, I would have been able to say with full confidence that he loved me. The best teachers usually do love their students – that’s a big part of why they are such good teachers. They truly are here and teaching for us, and for our success.
Anyway, all that to say it really didn’t work to have the person I truly wanted for my final fight.
So, I thought again. Who else had been in similar standing with Mr. C— for me in karate? Well, that answer was clear, too, once I asked the question: my mom.
She’s the whole reason I started as a kid, and her having become a brown belt was the main reason I had ever wanted to become one. Granted, I had now surpassed her rank of brown belt, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that it was all through her that any of this was possible and actually happened in my life.
After weeks of allowing her space to ‘think about it,’ she finally agreed fully this morning. I had had a feeling that she would do it in the end, though she had declined my original invitation to join just as one of the 16 over a month ago. She understood why I was asking her now, as well as the importance and significance of it. And she also appreciated that I would be exhausted by the end of all the sparring, and so necessarily would ‘go easy’ on her. That definitely helped. And the fact that I’m recovering from a sinus infection, and so literally couldn’t breathe as well or move as well as usual. So, she messaged this morning for details about tonight, and I was ecstatic and grateful. She even had to borrow sparring gear for her hands, head, and shins, because I had commandeered her head and hand gear for myself a couple years back – naturally, my child-sized gear didn’t work so well for me anymore. But my foot gear and shin guards did. (I guess she missed her shin guards when she was looking.) But she borrowed the gear and pulled out her old uniform and t-shirt and all, and she showed up.
As soon as we started our match, I instantly began to cry with emotion, of course. Should have seen that one coming, I know, but I hadn’t. Haha
Our match was actually quite fun and a real match, which made it all the better. It was a great closer for the evening and the week and the whole candidacy season.
Afterward, we all retired our brown belts, and we were all granted our black-belts-in-waiting belts, which are brown belts with a black stripe through their length. Everyone else had their main teacher/parent – because multiples have parents who are black belts and teachers – accept the brown belt, hold it up, and pull it taught into its final tie/knot, officially retiring the belt. My mom got to do mine. She had already taken off her top and her belt, so no one likely even noticed that she wasn’t a black belt. We both thought it was silly that she was ‘sneaking in’, but it was also really cool. And it was perfect that she’d taken off her top and belt already, and was just in the old black shirt for our school under Mr. C—. It was perfecto.
Then we were given our eight-day belts, and it was sobs all over the place. Our main instructor started it, just to be clear. Haha
Okay, I must sleep now. So, final thing: Our final scores were calculated before the sparring began, and announced at the end of the sparring. The scores were based on our physical fitness tests, our kata performance, our self-defense skills, and our written test on history and rules of judging and sparring and teaching. The total was several hundred points all together. She announced our grades a percentages. And mine was the highest, with 98%. That was quite cool.
Also, my mom and my man came tonight and watched me the whole time. That was awesome, too. I am very grateful that both made it.
Thank you, God, for this blessing and this success I have had. Please, continue to heal me, and heal my body rapidly, please. In your name, I pray. Amen.