And the big news at Ajvaville is that I managed to get my green belt on Sunday afternoon. It was, without a doubt, the most physically demanding thing I have ever done.
The green belt grading lasts an hour and a half, the blue belt one hour. There were 13 people taking blue belts and 7 taking green, all tested in a group, at the same time in a single room. We are tested by our instructors.
Brief digression by way of explanation: there is no such thing as a national standard of belt-colour grading for the martial arts; each school makes up its own, and submits a description of it to their affiliated association when registering for insurance etc. The only stipulation is "clear progression through the learning grades up to dan teaching grade or equivalent". So I suspect standards vary quite considerably. Our school has a six-belt system: blue, green, orange, purple, brown, black. The black belt grading in our school lasts up to five hours. Nobody has so far got beyond an orange belt (the school only started in 2000), but I notice that somebody's signed up for a purple grading in April. Sheesh. Good luck to them.
The other thing is that Kelly's sweet demeanour disappears in the grading room. She becomes a right bitch sergeant-major style, so you keep worrying that, after all the effort, she will fail you for some small infraction. A selection of choice comments like these include:
"How dare you hold the focus mitts like that for a hook kick! Anne Austin! Sort it out!"
"Jane, I want you to concentrate on kicking for the first round of shadow boxing as you didn't show me much evidence of it in that last round of sparring. We're kickboxers not boxers!"
"If you stop shuffling I'll take pride in failing you. If I have to mention it again I'll fail you too."
[just before the second 90-second shadow-boxing sesh, after 1 hour 25 minutes of non-stop kickboxing]: Anne! Your fitness is letting you down! Tim! Your fitness is letting you down! You've both got one last chance to show me you're worth it..."
So this was how it went:
First 30 minutes: punch and kick combinations in the air, drilled over and over again.
Next 25 minutes: combinations onto focus mitts with partner
Next 5 minutes: 5 techniques of your choice in the air
[blue belts finish]
Next 10 minutes: drilling blocks and combinations on to a partner, wearing all the pads
1 points fight, 1.5 minutes
1 light continuous fight, 2 minutes
2 x 1.5 minutes shadow boxing
rest of the time, making up 90 mins: 6 techniques in the air.
Just as we thought there couldn't possibly be any more, she threw in one last "Show me eight techniques in the air" at the end "just for fun", because "you were showing me you were tired".
Then it was over.
She likes to milk giving the results. She gave us negative notes first. Mine was that I wasn't always pivoting fully on the ridgehand (that's a punch with the inner side of your flat hand instead of a fist - it's done like a hook punch, where you throw your hip behind it to give it force. You're supposed to pivot your foot.). Most people had something to work on. She gave us some positive stuff, too, though. I was particularly proud of: "well, Anne, I don't know where you got it from, but suddenly when I told you your fitness was a problem you really pulled it out at the end there. Nobody was going to tell you you weren't fit, were they?"
Then, gravely, she gave us the results, saying "I don't have ten certificates here."
We were all so utterly fucked after all the physical exertion that not a single one of us noticed that there had only been seven of us taking the grading. We all completely fell for it and were really worried that some of us had failed.
We had all passed, of course. :o)
Later, I called my parents to tell them about it. My Dad's comment was: "An hour and a half? That's a football match! And no half time! You must be pretty fit."
Bless him. :o)