I won’t know the results of the exam until our head teacher is ready to give them to us.  I’m guessing they are waiting for our checks to clear before we can go to the bank and pay the 20 buck to stop the check.  =)

Wow, I’ve received several mails from blog readers asking me how it went.  Sorry it took some time to get around to posting.  I’ve needed time to heal.  =)

To sum it all up:  interactive seminar-style exams are not cool.  not cool at all.

For whatever reason, those grading the exam decided it would be a seminar-style, where a 6th degree black belt would interact with us on the floor while the 9th degree black belt graded us.  In essence, we were told to do a technique, let’s say a lunge punch, 6 times forward w/ right hand, turn around and do it 6 times again with the left hand.  After we finished a technique, the sensei (the 6th degree black belt) would explain where we were making mistakes and ask us to do it again.  Many times I felt we were taking the test twice. 

The best I can describe it was like taking a Math exam with the teacher looking over your shoulder telling you, “you did it wrong, try again.”  Normally, you wouldn’t think this is a bad idea, but let’s say you only have 20 minutes to take the entire exam, and it’s going to be tight to finish in those 20 minutes.  So what do you do?  Do you complete the entire test, but knowingly get stuff wrong?  Or do you try your best to get stuff right, but not be able to complete the end of the test? 

It was the same situation here.  First, it is a shock to one’s system to be told “you’re doing it wrong” right at the beginning of any exam.  Second, you’re wasting so much energy repeating the moves and trying to get it right.  The question was, “do I ignore the 6th degree black belt’s recommendations and keep pacing myself?”  Oh yeah right, like that’s going to happen. 

We used up all of our energy (we only have so much) and by the time we got to the last 7 or 8 techniques, the kids were breathing hard and the adults (all 2 of us) were gasping for air.  We were barely moving.  It was a sad site.  One person started crying, another started dry-heaving, and I was wondering what the etiquette was to throw-up (thankfully I was able to keep in back).

The absolute worst part of the test was having the row of spectators sitting on the back wall.  Almost directly in front of me was my Tuesday night teacher.  I kept thinking with every punch and kick in his direction, “I am so sorry.”  You see, a student’s performance is a reflection of the quality of the instruction.  Although I feel we didn’t get enough personalized attention from our head teachers going into the exam, I didn’t want my performance to be a reflection upon the teacher who had helped me the most over the past year.  Gosh, I’m such a girl.

When we were finally finished with part 1 (basics), we got to sit down.  The oxygen flowed back into my head for the first time.  It felt exactly as waking up from sleeping or fainting.  I wondered to myself, “Where am i?  Am I taking my black belt exam?  Was I involved in a train wreck?  Oh well, I’ll just make it up in the kata.”  Our head teacher was trying to signal to me to go get some water, but I wouldn’t look at him.  The performance was so embarrassing that I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone.  I was too scared for any feedback.  =)  And no, I didn’t get water.
Kata was much, much better.  We had to do all 6 kata (forms) at full speed with no breaks, which was okay with me.  Kata is what I’m best at.  And eventually you learn of the rhythm in each kata that allows you to catch your breath.  Free-sparring (fighting) was also pretty good.

After the exam, none of the teachers spoke to us, as far as I know.  That was the most difficult part, knowing your performance was poor (okay, my friends watching me that night and the other students have told me that we did great, but knowing you could have done much better makes it poor in my book) and no one is speaking to you afterwards.  My Tuesday night teacher had to leave early, so we sync’ed up the next day.  Yes, we had to go back the next day for the real seminar. Still none of the teachers spoke to us, or at least to me.

Usually after sporting competitions, especially karate ones and being a soccer goalie during shootouts, I find myself wishing I could go back and redo it, do it better or pick right instead of left.  For this exam, however, I absolutely do not want to go through that again.  Ever.

Am I upset?  Absolutely not.  I finally got to test for black belt.  Finally.  And as I said earlier, a student’s performance is a reflection upon the instruction.  Also, what can you do when your exam is turned into an interactive seminar?  Actually, I’ve been laughing mostly at everything – it was so over-the-top difficult.  The other adult taking the exam and I went out for beer afterwards.  It was the best beer of my life.  It was also the best debriefing of my life.  =)

If anything is to come of this, next year’s class will be very well prepared.   My advice – be able to do every single technique on the exam sheet 6 times forward, 6 times back other hand at full speed without any breaks.  When you can do that on your own, you’re ready.