After every class lately Sensei keeps asking me if I'm ready, and I always tell him yes. The truth is I AM actually ready, although the shodan pre-test scared me a bit. Sensei said to me today, "You're teaching Flight, of course you're ready." He means Flight of the Striking Tiger, one of the black belt katas we have to know for the test (the other is Sanseiru). I've known this kata for at least four years, but I have not performed it for that long. It's a beautiful kata that stems from some Chinese MA of which I forget the name. Sensei Morallo told me last night, but it did not stick in my brain. He's tweaked it, of course, for he said that the original is too stiff. Sensei Morallo is big on "twisting the meat" in the body, making if move softly, yet powerfully. All of our moves must come from hara and our stances must be strong yet supple. Yesterday afternoon he took us through Shisochin and Sanseiru and told us some amazing things about what to do in those katas. He told us when to use kime, how our bodies should be moving. The trunk of his body is exactly like a wall, no kidding. That's what is feels like. He has such control and when he strikes it's just like a snake. At the end of the class we all sparred for half an hour or so. My head was pounding from my injury, so I donned a sparring helmet since I had been tagged on the exact spot a few times. This is the thing, my head is such a target because I'm short and my head is right there for the taking. Ugh, I really don't feel comfortable going full-bore. We had on 16oz. gloves and just had at each other. I had the pleasure (note the sarcasm) of sparring with Sensei Morallo. You can hit him, it doesn't hurt him. I don't know who could hurt him. He did teach me some great stuff, parrying, etc. I just don't do it enough, and it's a big part of the shodan shiai. Sensei Bottomms does not like to spar heavily, he doesn't believe that it's a valuable part of karate. We do much more slow flow Ju Kumite, which teaches you timing, balance, flow. Anyway, Sensei Morallo told us that this shiai is not a "cake walk" and that he doesn't just hand out black belts. That is a very good thing. This will be very, very difficult, but I'm not scared. I'm elated.
I stayed for the kids shiai. Those shiais are always great to be a part of. I love hearing all the kiais and seeing those little people so focused. My nephew was testing for his San Kyu (he's 8) and did an amazing job of Seunchin. Apparently he had awoken that morning with butterflies and felt the stress of it all day long. Right after he was done he burst into tears of relief, literally sobbed against Sensei Bottomms. It was so amazing to see him release like that. I was so proud of him. He is truly a karateka in the making and I hope he sticks with it. His focus is so sharp and his body just knows what to do.
I will not be in class again until next Tuesday, which means practicing in my yard on the grass. I love doing that. So much to do, and so much time to do it.