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Bowley Kenpo Karate » At Disciple Martial Arts, Belt Promotion » Raw Emotion

Raw Emotion

A couple of weekends ago I tested to move up the belt ranks to 2nd degree brown. The test was attached to a seminar weekend at Disciple Martial Arts and had guest instructors and other Kenpoists onsite to watch. The curriculum portion of the test was one night and sparring the next, after a day of seminars. The technique and forms portion of the test was fine with the exception of developing dehydration cramps at about the 3 hour mark. Never having experienced cramps like those before, it was quite painful with a lasting soreness.

2 on 1 sparring during Bull in the Ring

2 on 1 sparring during Bull in the Ring

In turn, I felt as though I made a mistake in the planning for the sparring portion of the test. I fought too conservatively in fear of my legs cramping up again, fear of not having enough cardio to go the distance, and fear of the (self-induced) pressure of all the eyes watching. After 6 one-minute rounds and 2 three-minute rounds it was time for Bull In The Ring. Bull in the Ring is a sparring drill where one person is surrounded by opponents who attack one at a time from an unknown direction. I was completely gassed but endeavored to keep my hands up and move. Towards the end of the testing drill, I was attacked 2 on 1 by a first degree brown belt and a second degree black. Both are friends and tremendous fighters. My assessment was I did not do well. Taking shot after shot, I wasn’t able to move effectively and keep one opponent between me and the other. Couldn’t create distance. Couldn’t strike effectively to move them away.

I understand the test is designed not only to see what you know, but also how far you can go. And then push further. I also understand you’re not supposed to win. Humility. Taste of defeat. I get it.

It worked.

Don’t misunderstand, I love Kenpo, the instructors, and my karate family I was in the ring with. It was a good, fair, hard test. And I passed. Right now, I would gladly do it again and look forward to the next chance. But right then, in my head, I was crushed. Completely felt like I had let myself down. Didn’t spar to the expectations set in my own mind. And frustrated to the brink of tears at not performing how I’d thought I would.

Like all good tests, this was a learning opportunity with many positive takeaways. Keep your hands up. Pick targets and strike in combinations. Don’t move back linearly for too long. Hydrate regularly but especially heading into an expectedly long test.

But there are two things I will always remember. The first was told to me by Mr. Colin Duffy immediately after the test. The bad things I flubbed on the test and the things I excelled at don’t matter going into the next test. Just rededicate yourself, continue to train hard, and move forward. He’s right, and I have.

Most importantly though I will always remember that immediate defeated feeling afterwards. Remember, not dwell upon, but remember. It was a horrible feeling to let myself down. And that was in a controlled environment. Had it been a flight or fight situation on the street, it could have been catastrophic. I want to remember the feeling as a reminder. It will serve to keep my students and me focused so we don’t endure those raw emotion feelings in a real life, where it would matter even more as an on the street situation.

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Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

Filed under: At Disciple Martial Arts, Belt Promotion · Tags: , , , ,

  • Sam,

    First off, congratulations on your promotion ! Your assessment of your recent ” testing experience” was both honest and noteworthy. It shows that your progress to the rank of Black Belt is progressing well. To simply “KNOW OF” the numerous facets of our great Art {yes, I’m biased} both mentally [Dragon] and physically [Tiger] is only a stepping stone to the next phase which is “to KNOW”. As you continue to train under the guidance of knowledgeable instructors, these “experiences” become the –forging– drills that mold you into a great Kenpoist !
    To accept and participate in these events are all part of “THE PROCESS” which leads to wisdom and ultimately clear “UNDERSTANDING”. Honest self evaluation is necessary to focus and realize the many lessons {skill development and cardio conditioning, your ability to react/respond to an encounter etc.}, which results as a gauge to where you’ve ‘been’, where you currently ‘are’ and insight to areas needing improvement to achieve where you ‘want to be’. This is the purpose your instructors test and drill you with these events !.
    As the Iron Worker takes a rough, plain piece of metal then painstakingly FORGES the metal with heat, much work, sweat and skill, over time, several stages of development and continual shaping and re-shaping… results in the rough piece of metal finally becoming a beautiful polished finished piece of work that one could be proud of.
    The many different challenges and “drills” that you have experienced and will probably continue to experience are nothing more than forging stages towards a beautiful end product.
    YOU realizing the attainment of excellence in some areas of your current skill levels as well as the painful reality and exposition of certain skills that are in great need of attention and improvement are of paramount to your continual journey to excellence !
    As you stated, the “trials” you’ve experienced are all in controlled environments, with little or no fear of serious injury or death. These “training sessions/tests” are in preparation for actual encounters in the street. The tougher the trials – the greater the experience.
    Forge ahead Sam…. and voluntarily participate, submit, and evaulate to continually improving your mental & physical levels of development whenever the opportunity arises.

    Your friend,
    Dennis Conatser

    • admin

      Thank you Mr. Conatser. Your evaluation of the events is spot on and the encouragement means a great deal.

      The more I reflect on the test, the more I appreciate the forge work done in preparation, on site, and yet to come.

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