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Back in November four of us tested for 5th kyu. I remember being so nervous and worried that I would fail. FAIL…. Uck that is something I am not good at. It has never been something I have been able to swallow. It is something that I have gotten more gracious at, but it still puts a bitter taste in my mouth. I have always approached it as either you are a winner or a loser. If you get second place, that means you are the first place loser. So on that fateful night, I desperately wanted to pass. Or should I say win? After what seemed like forever (about 30 minutes really), I found out that I passed. I won my first battle. I did not get any feedback from sensei, but I was told by a yudansha that it was a good test. Was it truly a good test? I don't know. He did pull me aside away from all the other testers to tell me so. Did he do it because he thought I could use the boost of confidence or was it truly warranted? Was my test actually good or did it only appear that way because of the abilities of my peers? All I know is that I felt awkward and clumsy during the entire test and I was nervous as hell. At one point while doing gyaku hanmi katatedori uchi kaitenage, my uke rolled away from me prematurely. Surprisingly, I did not panic and just made sure to control my uke better next time. It was my fault after all.
After the test, we went out for pizza and beer. It was a blast and I hope we can do it again after the next test. On the way out, sensei made it a point to say that it wouldn't be long before we tested for 4th kyu. Ever since that night, talk of 4th kyu has been non-stop. In fact, it seems that most of the classes have been based around 4th kyu test requirements. Sensei is making it a point of catering to at least me and my husband, but I think others might be testing as well. Just last week we were working on tenchinage. At the end of class, sensei looked right at me and said "That is on the 4th kyu test." I frequently give one of the yudansha a ride to class and he is constantly saying that it won't be long before we test for 4th kyu. In fact, he let us borrow a dvd of his that has Chiba Sensei and some of his students demonstrating 5th and 4th kyu testing requirements. Everywhere I go, someone or something is reminding me about this 4th kyu test that is looming in the distance. At this point, I can't really say how close or far off it is, but I'm sure that sensei will wait until he feels we are more prepared for the test (or at least I can hope).
The more people talk about it, the more nervous I am of this looming mountain in the distance. I have tested before and I know what to expect format-wise. I guess I just have a hard time not knowing what the outcome will be. I will be doing techniques that haven't been tested before, along with some techniques I am familiar with thrown in (or at least I am pretty sure they will be). I don't feel prepared and in all honesty, I will never feel that way. My techniques are sloppy and I am clumsy as I move about. I stick my elbows out way too much and I am too nice when I am nage. With the passing of each test, my abilities are supposed to increase, which means that each test will be more stringent. The execution of my technique will become more and more critical. Sensei's leniency to poor and improper execution will decrease. All of these things are expected of course. The question is, am I to that point? I don't think I am. Do I trust the judgment of sensei and the other yudansha who will tell me when I am ready? Certainly. Do I trust my own judgment and abilities? Absolutely not.
Wow…. I just discovered the main cause of all my problems. I guess it should be no surprise. I have had very little self confidence most of my life. My husband is always scolding me. Telling me to "look at the positives instead of the negatives all the time". I can't blame the way I was raised entirely for my lack of self confidence, but it sure does play a big part. When I was younger, my parents were very supportive of me. I was fairly popular in school, got good grades and had plenty of friends. In 5th grade I was attacked by our dog. I had almost 60 stitches put in my face. From that moment on, everything began to change. Instead of having lots of friends, I had few. I was no longer popular. Instead I was teased relentlessly and called names such as "scarface". My self confidence faded away. Instead of being the bright yellow flower that forced their way through the snow, I was content lying dormant under the snow. At least there I was often overlooked, which meant no teasing.
As I got into high school, my parents became more critical of me. Why did I get a 99 in science class instead of a 100? I was told by my mother that I wouldn't go to college and that I wasn't smart enough to be a veterinarian or an attorney. I was naïve then and I took everything she said as gospel. Now that I have a Master's degree, I feel that I have proven her wrong. I know that I am capable of achieving things. The problem is I still can't get out of the mindset that I used for so many years. To me, I am still that girl who was teased all those years. I am still that girl who is not capable of attaining greatness. I have gotten to the point that I no longer see myself as ugly. In fact, there are times when I look in the mirror and I'm amazed to see a pretty girl staring back at me, but the confidence I have in my abilities…. it is still fractured beyond repair.
I don't have enough faith in my abilities and as if that isn't enough, I question the faith others have in my abilities. If I don't see greatness within myself, how can I expect others to see greatness in me? I have been told that I have a good trait called humility. Can something as extreme as what I feel even be called humility? I think not. According to the definition in my dictionary, it means the quality of being modest or respectful. When I look up modest, it says: shy-not confident or assertive and tending to be easily embarrassed, humble-unwilling to draw attention to your own achievements or abilities.
Let's look at these two definitions for a second. I am by no means shy. In fact, I am a fairly outgoing person these days and I can usually strike up a conversation with anyone. So that takes away one description of humble. Now let's look at the second description of humble. Can you be unwilling to draw attention to your achievements and abilities if you don't think you have any achievements or abilities to even be humble about (which I don't)? I don't think you can. There, I have thus shown enough evidence to scratch modest off as one of the descriptions of humility by showing that I do not have either of those two qualities: shy or humble.
Now to look up respectful: showing appropriate deference and respect. Deference means putting another person's interest first as well as submission to the judgment, opinion or wishes of another person. I do fit this description rather well. In order to train in anything, you almost have to trust the judgment or opinion of those senior to you or your training will surely end prematurely (assuming you are completely new and have no previous knowledge). When I look up respect, I get several explanations: a feeling or attitude of admiration and deference toward someone, the state of being admired and lastly, consideration or thoughtfulness. I certainly have a feeling of admiration towards my seniors. I would love to attain their level of proficiency one day. I do not think I myself am in a state to be admired though. I also think I have consideration for those above and below me. Each are to be respected for different reasons, but respected none the less. In the end, I guess I do fulfill the respectful part of the humility definition. So, I guess I am partially humble if you scrutinize it with enough detail.
Wow, I digressed quite a bit there! Back to the topic on hand (the looming test in the distance in case you forgot). There are several things that I am going to make a conscious effort to fix, alter or improve upon. First and foremost, I am going to really make an effort to believe in myself. I think my lack of self confidence is actually hurting my performance in class. In essence, I am holding myself back because I do not have the confidence in my technique. In all actuality, my technique might improve if I were to perform it with the confidence that I am capable of doing it. Perform it without hesitation, second thoughts and questioning every little detail! I'm not saying that I cannot analyze my technique for errors, but don't go into the technique thinking that something is going to go wrong. Feel it out.
My second task is to use the ground I walk upon for energy. This will actually help cover several more areas that I need to improve upon. Instead of using my upper body, use my center. Using my center will cause me to sink more into my hips, which will then cause me to use my legs more. My legs will then have to rely on the ground to help drive the technique. If this is done, then my entire body will be moving as a single unit. Not only will I be more balanced, but I will also have more oomph to my technique. My last task is to continue to do what I am doing now. Show up, train and have fun. Train in a light hearted manner, but treat training as a serious endeavor. Stop apologizing so much. Continue to work with as many students as possible and listen to what the yudansha tell me. Look for the subtleties that are often lost on unseeing eyes. Stop being so critical of yourself and simply enjoy the ride. Have faith that everything else will fall into place in due time. Oh and one more thing, stop sticking your elbows out so much!