Saturday night…another night out with the Kenshusei boys.
Last week was a hard week that ended even harder. We’re gearing up for our first test – for 4th-6th Kyu. And this test is ALL about spirit. Our senseis have all commented that our form is there, our technique looks ok, but this isn’t just a display of technique. This is about putting everything we have into it. 110% into everything – from the first strike, to the kiai, and onward through every movement in the technique; even the stand-up and return to starting position. INTENSITY. We’ve done nearly a dozen mock tests so far, each one with increasing energy and focus. I feel anxious every time, and I can guess its similar for the other 4 kenshusei. Even Big Chris said during one of our mock tests that he felt anxious and stressed out…even though he’s not testing next week. On Friday, the last day of our training week, we got hammered with a session of Hiyaku Ukemi. I knew it was coming; we all did. During Kote Gaeshi, none of our Hiyaku Ukemis looked great, and our senseis hinted that we’d see a return of Hiyaku Ukemi practice, even after Kote Gaeshi was finished. So Friday was the day. While I got thrown 10 times, threw my partner 10 times, and back and forth for a total of 100 each, I couldn’t help but feel like it was the physical representation of the song “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. In fact, the track was running through my head, and I secretly wished it was playing full blast in the background of the dojo. When we finished, Andy Sensei told us to put away the white mats, and then lined us back up facing each other. “Ok, now we’re going to do the same exercise without the white mats.” 100 more Hiyaku Ukemis on the hard tatami. I can’t say I was thrilled at the idea, nor were any of the others, BUT, oddly enough, I was ready for it, and I bet the others were too. And when I say we were ready for it, I mean, we all would have done it. But it would have taken it out of us. I think it was wise for us not to have done it after all. But it was a test of our spirit, to show that we were focused and ready and committed. And I don’t think we passed that test, at least not based on Andy Sensei’s reaction.
At any rate, we plowed through to the end of the day on Friday, giving everything we had, and finished off with a good dose of conditioning as always. This time “only” 80 push ups, 80 sit ups, and 80 superman lifts. When we got home on Friday, Big Chris had left us an awesome gift on the kitchen table. A bottle of Suntory 43 degrees. It was a kind of consolation for having given the idea of doing this ukemi practice…not knowing that Herve’s wrist was injured from doing Kote Gaeshi the day before. The three of us, Herve, Machine, and I, wasted no time in filling our glasses with ice coca cola, and the healing potion. Soon we were wearing big grins, laughing, and celebrating our mini victory, having completed the week’s training. Saturday night we were out with an old Japanese friend of mine who I’d met on my travels in Myanmar, and at the end of the night, the 3 of us – Machine, Kitamura, and I, polished off the night with a drink at an old classic Japanese Bar next to Kiyamachi street. I felt like we’d jumped in a time portal and went back 30 years.