Friday’s conversation with Coworker Pete:
Mike D: Pete, I’m learning a spear form at Kung Fu
Coworker Pete: Oh yeah?
Mike D: It’s completely awesome. At one point you have to spin the spear around your back using your shoulder as a pivot point and it whips forward in a nasty slicing action
Coworker Pete: You better be careful with that thing
Mike D: It’s really not that dangerous. Most of the time the blade of the spear is very far away from your body anyway.
Key phrase: Most of the time.
On Wednesday night I was practicing with my sword at kung fu and mistakenly slashed my chin and neck.
I was swinging the sword from below in a downward arc, which is why it has a weird two directional thing going on there. Thankfully the sword is dull as heck.
I guess it’s kinda neat to say that I’ve endured a sword wound – even if it was self inflicted.
After the craziness that was the Black Belt test last Sunday, I had an epic party for my family and kung fu instructors. The theme pushed the limits of my creativity. With the help of many friends, I selected foods and beverages to match each color belt from my black belt program. Check it out:
Beginner belts: Yellow, gold, and orange
Mac and cheese, yellow peppers, pineappel slices, lemonade, Chicken Nuggets, Mozzarella sticks, cheeses, crackers, tropical juice, and orange juice
Intermediate belts: Jade, Green, Purple, and Blue
Jade and Green: Kiwi, guacamole, cucumbers, green peppers, green grapes, spinach balls, spinach knoor dip
Purple: Cupcakes, grapes, jello jigglers
Blue: More cupcakes, more jello, blueberries!
Advanced belts: Red, Brown, Adv. Brown, and Black
Red: Cherries, strawberries, red peppers, raspberries, fruit punch, pepperoni
(red was unsurprisingly my favorite table)
Brown: brownies, chocolate, chocolate milk, cookies
Black: Sarah Bernhardts, Dad D’s famous chocolate ganache cake, and cupcakes.
Wow. The food was amazing. You’ll also notice that for the drinkers, I purchased alcoholic beverages of each color as well. It was truly a remarkable theme and a truly remarkable day.
Special thanks to all those who participated and supported me throughout the black belt endeavor. I’m so lucky to have had the chance to work on this hobby.
Black belt candidates are required to complete three conditioning tasks: 50 panther push-ups, 50 row-boats, and two and a half minutes of horse stance.
While the push-ups and row-boats were no real challenge, the horse stance was a different story. My quads were already fearfully sore after the forms, self defenses, and sparring – so I was truly worried about my ability to accomplish the 150 seconds of horse stance.
The clock started and I rested my bo staff across my legs.
To date, the longest I’d been able to endure the pain with bo staff was 2 minutes flat. I desperately watched as the clock hands circle through their path. After 90 seconds my legs were burning.
Admittedly, my form suffered a bit into as we passed the two minute mark. My stance sagged and my feet edged out, though I’m pleased to say that the staff did not roll off my legs. Sihing Mark counted down the last few seconds of agony. My task completed, I folded over – exhausted.
The test was over.
The celebrations began with a tea ceremony. The first task of new black belts is to serve your master tea. This is done in part to check our egos. Yes, we are now black belts – but we still must show respect and honor to those who have helped us along the way.
With the tea served, I was asked to stand and my Sifu removed my dark brown belt and replaced it with my new black belt.
Pictures were taken, and then we zipped off as we needed to prepare for the party.
Tomorrow, we’ll have party pictures!
(this is a continuation of part I, found here.)
There are two parts of the black belt test process that are especially intimidating: the sparring and the board breaking. This is because the pretest, which determines your eligibility (and basic readiness) for the black belt test, does not include either of these activities.
For black belt candidates, there are two sparring events and four breaking tasks. The sparring includes a one on one fight and a two on one fight.
For my one on one fight, I faced Sihing Steve. Sihing Steve is an extremely advanced fighter. He’s exceptionally fast and often instructs our sparring classes. He is quite possibly the best fighter at our academy.
While Sihing Steve clearly dominated the fight, I’m extremely proud of my ability to keep up at his level pace and ferocity.
That’s Sihing Steve in black on the right and me in white on the left.
Both the one on one and two on one matches last for about a minute. It is utterly exhausting because sparring requires full energy exertion for the entire match.
For the two on one match, I was paired up against Sihing Steve and Sihing Roland. Roland is a close friend in that we both climbed the belt ladder together. He received his black belt about a year ago and stands next to Sihing Steve as one of the most talented fighters of the school. Just to add to the intimidation, they wore matching black uniforms.
I was extremely relieved at the conclusion of the sparring. Next up, the candidates relaxed from the mayhem of fighting and took turns breaking boards.
I had four breaking tasks. I had to break a board with an elbow, a palm strike, a side kick, and a jumping back kick.
Bam. Just like that.
Tomorrow: Conditioning trials and the ceremony!
After months of rescheduling, my black belt test finally went down on Sunday June 6th, 2010. Firstly, I’d like to thank my family and friends for joining me in celebration. Special thanks to Shaun L. who did an amazing job taking pictures. He took over 800 shots over the course of the four hour exam. For this and other reasons I’m going to split this epic post into a few parts over a few days.
For me, the exam was the culmination of 4+ years of training and around 430 classes (surprisingly few. blame business travel).
There were four of us being tested. Two of us (Tristen and I) were going for our black belt. The other two (Josh and Monish) were going for their first degree black belt. Those two had four extra forms to complete (including a spear form) and harder conditioning come the end of the test.
Pretest, I was nervous as heck. Having just flown in from France Friday night and having spent Saturday busily trying to prep the House of Rock for Sunday’s post-test party, I was struggling to find time to come to peace with the anxiousness.
We started with a few basic forms and kicking sequences. While not very tricky, these simple exercises worked wonders at calming me down. Nothing says chill out like kicking imaginary opponents in the face.
Next up we returned to the world of forms. For my test I needed to know 7 hand forms and 5 weapon forms (4 staff, one sword). We worked on the individual staff forms first and then ventured into the two person form. I was paired up with 1st degree candidate Monish. He was an excellent partner.
Our staff form seemed to be a crowd favorite. Both Monish and I were performing at the peak of our ability. Shaun took a video and I will do what I can to post it within the week. Though I think Monish’s family may have a better take.
Monish and I were also paired for self defenses. We black belt candidates had to perform 27 self defenses.
After I finished my self-defenses, Monish got a chance for revenge including some bonus beautiful first degree hip throw maneuvers.
Tomorrow, we will explore the world of sparring and board breaking!
(enjoy part II here)
Stay tuned. Pictures and stories to come soon.
My black belt test is today.
Stay tuned for results.