Saturday, March 11, 2006


Two weeks from today I will receive a black belt in Tang Soo Do. Before that happens I have to make it through a high level exam. Yikes.

I wasn't feeling very "yikes" about it until this morning. Actually, I was mostly feeling a combination of apathy and frustration. I just wanted it to be over so that I could have something to show for these many years of work, and then STOP. I guess part of me still feels that way. But now there is another part that is, frankly, terrified.

You see, this morning I participated in a karate tournament. It was a stupid tournament. One of those pathetic situations where "competition" is actually randomly selected teams who are "all winners", and where three teams of four all get second place. God forbid any of these children learn anything about true competition. But that is another issue.

I decided to participate because I wanted to sort of practice being "on the spot". I haven't done a real karate test for something like two years, and a black belt test is a big deal. So I guess I just wanted to know what pressure would do to me.

Now I know.

I was doing a form that I know really well. I went through it this morning at home and knew it cold. At the tournament before I was called up I was able to be calm and focused and in mokso. I said my name, the name of my school, and the form I would be doing in a reasonably modulated voice. And then when I began the form, my body betrayed me. My knees shook, my hands shook...have you ever tried to do something that requires balance when your knees don't want to hold you up? And frankly, shaking hands don't do much to add to the "look how tough I am" impression. Sigh. The way I wanted it to go, the way I visualized it happening, just didn't materialize. And the frustrating thing is that I don't know what to do about it. How do you make your body behave when what happens seems to be entirely out of your control?

I did everything right leading up to it. Focus, calm, deep breathing, visualization, feeling heavy. And somehow it all flew away when I needed it.

So I'm left looking forward two weeks, and being very, very, very worried. I'm already concerned about this test, just because I'm not in the physical or emotional shape that I expected to be in approaching my black belt exam. I'm trying to come to terms with that. Adding the fear that two weeks from today will go very much like today is just awful.

I want to do well on my test. It won't be perfect (no one's black belt test is perfect) but I want to do well. I wish today had given me more reason to believe that could happen.


Jess said...

So this was a dress rehearsal, right? And you know what they say in the theatre - you don't need to worry unless the dress rehearsal goes WELL.

Sarah said...

Good luck on your test, Em!

And um, I imagine that you know I know exactly how you feel. I have many, many experiences of performances where my body betrayed me - knees shaking, hands quivering, palms sweating, etc. - and doing all these awful things that kept me from doing what I was trying to do as well as I was trying to do it! I pray a lot, but that hasn't meant I've never made a mistake in a performance. :) Heh. Usually Nathan and I pray together before either of us has a performance... praying specifically that God will calm our nervous anxieties so that we can do our best.

Also, try eating bananas. They are high in potassium, which supposedly calms your nervous system. Fact or myth...? I don't know, but for me it's a pre-performance thing that I won't miss!

I think focusing is incredibly hard under pressure in performance of any kind. My focus in the practice room is often much better than it is in a performance - when ideally, my performing focus would be even stronger than my practicing focus. Well, don't psych yourself out. You can do it.

I suppose my advice is useless since mine is with music performance in mind rather than karate, but here it is, for what it's worth.