The exam for the 1st DAN — “It’s about time”; was the comment of my long-time friend Peter Mixa. I have known the holder of the 7th DAN in Wado Ryu Karate for more than 20 years. And even then, Peter was already highly decorated, I could talk to him not only about cars, but also about martial arts.
Actually, I felt very safe before the exam. For months I prepared myself, sweating, stretching and practicing almost daily for the last weeks.
Actually, so I thought, I had all the weak points of my still manageable skills reasonably safely under control. 5 Saifas, 4 Tai Tsukus and the 1st master form sat safely. As weapon forms I had chosen the 2nd Bo-Kata and the Sai-Kata. For the Sai, who like to get caught in the sleeves of their suits when spinning, I had the sleeves of my Gi shortened.
Actually all partner exercises, 10 techniques and 30 kumite, were practiced countless times.
Normally all these skills and some more, such as Bo block forms or self-defense, are required in an exam. Accordingly I was curious if my conditional abilities would be sufficient for this marathon program. Technically, I had all the skills (I thought), and in terms of attitude, everything was clear (I know).
On 20 June the time had come: I had wished that I would not be tested in the usual way, i.e. by our silence-internal masters, but in front of a somewhat larger stage. And since the summer exams were coming up in our Seibukan association, it was obvious to take part in the upper school exams. So, in addition to my trainer Flo, Andreas Brechmann (6th DAN Kempo), Herbert Zielinski (4th DAN Kempo), Sylke Kielon (4th DAN Kempo), Reinhold Weidemann (3rd DAN Kempo) and Max Hettmann (2nd DAN Kempo) gathered as examiners. An illustrious round, representing almost all Kempo styles of our region.
Together with me, eight other candidates competed, some for the brown belt, some for the 1st or even the 3rd DAN. The catch of this large group: Only excerpts from the actual examination programme were to be shown. The catch for me: I was excited like a beginner. And although I can be a pretty cool sock in general, this time the nervousness subsided much later. I already had my first wobbles with the Ippon-Kumite. Then the second kata I had to show, namely our 5th Saifa, really went into the box. All of a sudden nothing worked anymore. So short break, then again. That was embarrassing … The whole remaining forms were accompanied by small uncleanliness and wobbles which I thought I had eliminated long ago.
I only became more relaxed when my trainer Flo, who guided me through the test, demanded free fighting. Thereby the safety came back, afterwards the self-defence program with my partner Uwe ran smoothly. And when the breakage tests were clean, it was clear that I passed the test quite confidently.
But my ambition and my own self-image are not really satisfied with a “just passed” exam. I am sure that I can and may carry the 1st DAN rightly, but I am not really satisfied with my own performance.
But that is “the way”: New tasks and challenges are always presented, sometimes quite unexpectedly. This is exactly the exciting thing about dealing with martial arts: the actual fight takes place with your own self.