In the first weekend of June, we hosted our summer grading and once again the venue in Whitehaven was filled with the tension, excitement, hope and apprehension that has preceded so many gradings before.
Chief Instructor Chris Denwood reminded all his classes the previous week that the most important qualities in karate training are hard work, regular training and a consistent strive for improvement regardless of grade. Challenging a new rank can be a very a useful way to measure progress and the grading structure can help make the enormity of karate a bit more manageable. Having said that, gradings are never about comparing one's abilities with others and it's importance is always based on a personal measure. That importance becomes clearly evident in beads of sweat, dry mouths and in the electrifying tension that builds in the room.
It would be unnatural to stand in front of a grading panel and not feel a rush of adrenalin. It's how to manage that "rush" that's important. When your mind perceives what it believes to be fear, then your body prepares for "fight or flight".
If ever the soft "layers of defence" based around awareness and avoidance (crucial to all self protection strategies) should fail and you find yourself confronted with the prospect of a violent encounter, then fear management and decision making under pressure become important skills to become friends with. Looking on at Dave Jones and Thomas Allaker (pictured left) giving their all in the partner work, the effects of adrenaline (as well as the products of a lot of hard work and training) were plain to see!
The photo below reminds me of my first ever grading, when I set off to step forward for a right punch while everyone else carried out a standing left punch...I got something wrong that I must have practised a thousand times before! That was one of my first encounters with the negative affects of adrenalin. I wasn't the first and I certainly won't be the last to get muddled up in a grading :-)
Hard work, regular practice and continuing to challenge yourself at gradings is commendable to all who head down this path. Learning from mistakes and getting used to managing stress will help you deliver improved performances, just like we all witnessed last Sunday with some very intense and sharp displays. Kelvin McDonald, our current senior Student of the Year is seen here in the centre of the photo on his way to a strong 4th Kyu grade!
The reward for braving a grading and not to mention, all the hard work and dedication that goes into preparing for such an event looks like this (pictured below). Huge smiles and a palpable sense of satisfaction/relief. The particularly huge smile in the centre photo is Zoe Crossan, complete with her new yellow belt, certificate and a grading record signed up with the only first class pass of the day!
Congratulations to all those who shared the adrenaline rush last Sunday. No matter what the outcome, the grading itself will have been an invaluable learning opportunity. Your reward?? - well, all the hard works starts again of course :-)