At first I was afraid, I was terrified.
Kept thinking I could never live throughout this tough fortnight.
Now I spent so many nights thinking this could go so wrong,
But I was strong.
And I kiai’d like King Kong!
Oh yes I!
I did survive!
As long as I know how to punch my spirit will stay alive!
This week I would relive,
With experience to give.
I have survived!
I have survived!
So yeah. That just happened. After the final class today I ran inside belting this song at the top of my lungs. Weird, I know. But totally worth it.
So a recap of what happened throughout Thursday and Friday. Thursday was physically tough and our bodies were pushed to the limit with shiko dachi and thousands of punches. Now those punches were tough. Twenty-odd people in the class, everyone counted ten punches, then everyone counted ten double-punches, and then everyone counted ten triple-punches. I didn’t even bother counting, but the entire time I was thinking ‘I will make the next punch better than the last’ and ‘Do not stop kiaing unless you have to sneeze!’. It hurt my entire body and I felt it the next morning, but so proud for not giving up.
Friday morning was all physical. The shiko dachi we did made it very difficult to climb the stairs at work afterwards. But the evening? Let’s just say that for the last eight years I’ve been mimicking the Showa without any knowledge of what I’m supposed to be saying. We spent an hour devoted to learning the correct pronunciation of the Showa and of all the classes throughout the intensive, it was that class where I feel I learnt the most.
Let’s talk overall. Throughout the entire week I had an amazing team of people surrounding me and helping me push myself to be better. There was Bailey and Klaudia, who when I was behind them for speed training they were much faster than me and it pushed me to be faster to keep up. And little Sam, who was a great partner for training bunkai with zanshin and performing at 110%. William, where going through kata with him was great for realising my own flaws, and together we worked to fix both of ours. Savannah, who encouraged me to step back and think differently and more creatively about things to improve kata and bunkai. Big Sam, whose kiai I kept trying to one-up through the entire second week.
Through this fortnight I’ve come to realise that I am not ready to grade just yet, even though I was aiming for a February grading. I need to go back to the basics, e.g. kime, shime, zanshin, conditioning, cardio. Currently they are not an acceptable level to grade. And now that the intensive it over, I’m planning to train in conditioning and cardio from home until I feel it’s good enough to warrant a grading attempt.
Doing the intensive has felt so great. Not while working out so much as the buzz afterwards. The mixture of early mornings (which gave me extra hours to do things during the day) and physical activity (which woke me up and prepared my body for actually doing stuff) made my daily performance better. I felt that I smiled more, even during class, and it was refreshing.
Now the entire time I’ve been working with Sam and Klaudia, all of us vying for a scholarship to go to Japan for a week or two and train with the senseis there.
Sam came to every morning class and afternoon 6.15 class without fail. He had his towel (which was always as damp as his gi at the end of the night) and his training attitude. I never saw him yawn or stop and take a breath because he was tired. Well, if he did then I didn’t see him. Whenever he was my partner for something he was always focused, but didn’t hesitate to crack a smile when warranted. During speed training he was a tad slower than Bailey and Klaudia, but that was because he made sure that every punch was accurate, he had kime and his stance was strong. Rinten, shiko, cosi dachi, you name it. Everything was flawlessly executed and still incredibly fast at the same time. It’s not difficult to understand why Sam is a black belt. He always puts in his full effort and then some, turns up consistently and I can’t help but be inspired by him.
Klaudia, as far as I know, turned up for every single class throughout the fortnight, including day classes. Of course she was tired, but that didn’t stop her. She tried hard every class and put in so much effort and kept such a positive attitude throughout the entire thing. In speed training she was one of the fastest and it was a task and a half merely keeping up. Her kiais were terrifying (especially during the more senior kata). Throughout the entire fortnight she was an unshakable rock and oozed strength and commitment. She was nearly always in good spirits and I couldn’t help but admire her charisma when working with the Little Champions and younger kids.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with both of them during the fortnight and learning from them. Both of them stand an equal chance at the scholarship and it’ll be a close race. This intensive has been an interesting, exhausting, and full of learning and did I mention exhausting? But so worth it. Pushing myself past my limits felt amazing. And you know what? It’s the beginning of the year and there’s so much more to do.
I just want to thank Sensei Martin and Sensei Sandra for holding this intensive and being there the entire time and for all their pushing and encouragement. It was a great experience and one that I would gladly relive again.