Black Belt Test Recap Part II

(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.

Kung Fu Sparring
Sihing Steve blocks my jab

That’s Sihing Steve in black on the right and me in white on the left.

Sihing Steve skillfully connects with a kick

Kung Fu sparring
Crescent Kick Evasion

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.

Sihing Roland and Sihing Steve attempt to drive me into the corner.

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.

breaking boards
Elbow break!

breaking boards
Palm Break!
breaking boards
Side Kick!
breaking boards
Jumping Back Kick!

Bam. Just like that.

Tomorrow: Conditioning trials and the ceremony!

Black Belt Test Recap Part 1

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.

That would be a dark brown belt I am wearing

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.

Front Kick
Front kick to the imaginary 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.

bo staff
Get ready to feel the pain
bo staff form
Mike D evading the sweep

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.

roundhouse kick

After I finished my self-defenses, Monish got a chance for revenge including some bonus beautiful first degree hip throw maneuvers.

Monish's Revenge.

Tomorrow, we will explore the world of sparring and board breaking!
(enjoy part II here)