Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pondering Green Belt

We recently promoted four of our students at Hidden Sword Martial Arts to their next ranks - from Yellow to Green, and from Green to Blue belt.

Our shiny new Blue and Green belts. Image by Mark Lynn.

Green belt, in particular, holds a special place in my heart, because it is the first belt color I ever wore in Arnis.

Not that it's my first rank; it's just that in the group I trained with prior to studying at Hidden Sword, we were given rank, but not belts.  I was about that rank in my old group before I started at Hidden Sword.

Our first belt test was over a ton of material.  My husband and I have been our school's curriculum "guinea pigs" of a sort, and the curriculum we follow now is radically different than what our teacher was using back when we first tested, due to the experience gained by my teacher training us.

Our Green Belt Test.  It was loooooooong.
Additionally, the lower levels of our program are heavily drawn from Kombatan, an art we had not studied, and has a ton more double-stick material than Modern Arnis typically does, so we had a huge amount of material to learn and execute.

That test consisted of my husband and I, plus a third student, who went away to college not too long ago, and we miss terribly, by the way, as she's a gifted martial artist.

Our green belt test took three hours.  Three. Hours.

I forget everything that we tested on, but it included the 12 Angles of Modern Arnis (various ways), the Fourteen Angles of Kombatan (double stick), all four Combative Responses of Kombatan (double stick and empty hand), many, many different kinds of sinawali (single, advanced, x-pattern, heaven, standard, earth - maybe even the Pyramid of those three - and a few others), disarms (vs. forehand and backhand various ways with double sticks, single stick, and empty hand), might have been a few locks and take-downs, and I think we did the Dos Manos striking drills, and Baston Anyo Isa, and Empty Hand Anyo Isa, and maybe we did Dalawa too...

I smile more now, I think...
Most of that content today is divided up among four to five belt levels!

After our test, I recall feeling very depressed about how it went.  Mainly because I knew the material but I didn't and couldn't execute it as well as I wanted to execute it. If I recall correctly, we'd been studying by this point for about five-six months, and honestly, we had to absorb all of that material - most of it new or performed differently than we were used to - plus get in enough practice to do it really well.

We just didn't get enough reps in to do it well.

We were happy to be ranked, but we felt that we'd let our teacher down by not doing it as well as we really should have (at least, so it seemed to us).

Of course, that was way, way too much to do in one test - that was a huge lesson learned.  Today, we don't ask our students to do that, and rank tests, depending on the belt level can take an hour for the white/yellow to 1-1/2 to 2 for Green/Blue (we'll find out for Purple, Brown, and above, as we haven't had any students under this curriculum get there yet).  Thus, our students get more reps and practice perfecting what they are learning.

Since my Green belt test, though, that belt rank has held a special place for me.  It is my second favorite rank period in my training, the one I made the most progress, perhaps (my favorite is Dayang Isa - Black Belt - the rank I hold today).

See?  More smiley.
Green Belt is where I got to perfect all that material I'd tested on.  We had some other adult students join us around that time, and I felt, for the first time, like an "upper belt", the senior students of our teacher.I became much, much better in my basics, so the intermediate material came easier than it had before.  As more Modern Arnis came into my studies again, I understood it better than ever.

Green belt represented a huge step forward for me.

Our youngest students were the Yellow belts promoted to Green, and I took them aside after the testing to tell them some of what I am telling you now, and that I want them to really knuckle down and work hard at this belt level.  It gets a lot harder at Green in our curriculum, and I want these two young men to know that this is when we step it up, and to make the most of it.

I want their Green belt level to be as meaningful for them as mine was for me.

And as hitty.
I'd like to know about ranks that may have had a special significance for you!  Let me know in the comments!