Rites of Passage

One goes through a lot of changes from one's first day in a dojo to the day you take your Green Belt Test. In Goju it is the proverbial line traced in the folds of your mind, that if you passed this one you were half way there. Half way to where I still don't know, but it was a turning point in the dojo and it had me scared shitless. It came around my third year. The sensei read out the names of those who could apply for green belt. I declined the first two times, and let six months pass before I could even contemplate what I was in for. The reason? The dreaded Sanchin Shime test, the cornerstone of the ordeal, the very core kata of the style, the boggieman of all katas. No sanchin, no green belt, it was as simple as that. It wasn't the kata per se that had me mentally between a rock and a hard place, it was the shime testing. I'd seen many a candidate buckle up and fold when they felt that whack of palms on their shoulders and the dreaded kick up their wazoo. They finally told me I had to go test for the belt, no excuses. The several "dress rehearsals" I experienced only darkened my gloom. I felt I wasn't ready, that I would never be ready. Woe is me. And to add to the misery, my nemesis Sensei Tony Formaris had made it a point to be there as he grimaced in my direction and snapped a blow to my stomach that had me skipping two meals. No way out. I doubled my sit-ups routine, l did legs raises by the hundreds, practiced with my green belt buddy puching our abdomens and kicking our legs silly. And in between, all the katas, bunkais, and kumites of the syllabus up to that belt. We were ready, but we were not. The day finally came and my friend came to pick me up (the same friend that started in the dojo with me), just in case I thought of chickening out again. I felt like a lamb being taken to the slaughter. Shime testing in Sanchin was still then (erroneously) a grin and bear it situation, and I felt I could hardly grin and much less bear it. By the time the Sanchin test came along I was wasted: a full class, then the test with all the katas, bunkai and kumite with brown belts, and then finally we were told to go to zazen, strip our tops off, fold to the side, reverence...Sanchin Kata. I survived. I was in a daze all throughout, to tired to care if I passed or failed. It was Tony Sensei who handed me the green belt and smiled at me for the first time.
This video reminded me of that day...and many days after.

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