Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Kobudo: Shodan Edition

On Saturday, November 18, 2017,  I took my Kobudo Black Belt test (for Shodan) from the American Karate Tae Kwon Do Organization's kobudo program.

Spoiler alert: I passed.

My first class was in January, 2015, so I'm a couple of months shy of the program taking three calendar years.  Weapons covered in this session were bo (6 foot staff), tonfa, nunchaku, and sai.  Looking at our first test for Green, nine women and fifteen men tested.  At our black belt exam, eight women and seven men tested.

I've been knuckling down and practicing pretty hard, and I knew as long as I didn't absolutely quit, I would pass this test.  But, as always, about 24 hours before test time, I got pre-test jitters.  I slept poorly that night, I was having trouble remembering things in kobudo practice that morning, and the closer I got to the time to go a huge rock built up in my gut.

On the drive over, timed to arrive 45 min before the test started, I hit a really bad traffic jam due to two big, terrible accidents.  That scared the bejeezus out of me - I can't be late to my test, after all - but I got through it fast enough to arrive 1/2 hour before test time,  which was plenty.

Just as we prepped to go into the room, all of my nerves went away and I felt calm and confident and ready to go.  This is normal for me - freaking out for a day until time to go and then everything becomes smooth sailing.

I won't detail everything we did here.  We did our forms. We did our blocking drills, striking drills, and two-man drills.  We hit the "BOB" bag with our weapons (although we were cautioned not to stab him with sai).

Hitting BOB with sai, bo, tonfa and nunchaku

I didn't hiccup on anything, so that was pretty nice.  I think I absolutely rocked nunchaku - easy to do since it's my favorite of the four weapons we covered and the most arnis-y.  I did drop my sai during warmups (they told us to stop, and I did, automatically, and the sai flew out of my hand thanks to sweaty palms and inertia) but that was my biggest blunder overall.

I did get a tonfa burn on my right thumb, and then sometime during two-man drills and the "BOB" striking drills I strained the daylights out of that same thumb. Thankfully the test was almost over and I no longer had to manage the finer points of sai manipulation!

On two-man drills I was lucky enough to be paired with my friend Jessica, my favorite person to pair with in the room (she's competent and knows what we're doing, and we're of similar height so we don't have any weird targeting issues to deal with).  She must have made me look good, because the feedback on my test from the instructors is that I did really well on the two man drills (which they expected of me, apparently).

Upon receiving my rank certificate, I was told, "Good job, killer".


Aww yiss.

L to R: Sensei Mike Proctor, "Killer", Sensei Keith Yates

Our main instructor during nunchaku/sai, Aaron Barnett, was also promoted to 3rd Dan in Kobudo at this test. Congratulations to him!

So what now?

We move on to the Seniors class in January, which is less pressured as there's no set time or schedule for testing anything at all.  Basically, it's a great time to just learn and nerd out on weapons.

Just the thing for the Stick Chick, friends.

We're going to study kama next - sticks with KNIVES on them? YES PLEASE! although we will only use all-wood practice weapons.  Nope, no aluminum rainbow tape wrapped dancey-dance pseudo-kama for yours truly.

I'll take a short break to rest and heal, but I'll be back practicing in December, even if I'm not going to get tested on anything. I don't want to forget what I learned, but I think I'll spend a lot more time on nunchaku because, well, I can. I'm also planning on trying to find someone to teach me more nunchaku, as I plan to try to get very, very good at it.

So there you go.  My first step in the long journey to understanding and using ALL THE WEAPONS is complete.

Here's some more pictures from the test:

The second move of our "Bo Ichi" form

Part of our "Tonfa Ichi" form

Nunchaku Ichi.

Sai Ichi

Two man drill.  Nunchaku vs. Bo.

Nine women entered, eight women leave.

Receiving my rank certificate

The Hidden Sword Martial Arts crew. Kimberly was complimented on having the best technique on the test.
Yeah, well... I could take her!

The Shodan Class of Group 10 of the AKATO kobudo program and our instructors