Going into my orange belt test, I had very little idea of what it was going to be like. I had
only had a handful of dedicated coloured belt classes beforehand in addition to a few private
tutoring sessions, though I had also been going to every defence and warrior class that I could
make it to. I felt that the techniques were still very fresh for me, but felt that my fitness and
basic techniques were in a good place.
‘There’s a written test’ was the first thing I remember hearing. I had no idea what a
written test would even consist of, but I think it was pretty straightforward material. Things that
Jonathan and BorHan are always going over in class. Things you might not always have on
your mind, but when faced with the question, you can answer from it being drilled into you so
often. And then the physical test began with a review of every technique I had learned from
white belt up until that point, and I felt very similarly to how I had felt with the written portion.
Perhaps the reasons for pursuing a certain course of action or for using a certain technique
were not always in my mind at the time of it’s use, but having been drilled so often in punches
and kicks and 360 and choke defences, when asked to reflect on the situation or why a certain
technique should be used and for what, I found that the answers came to me fairly quickly.
Perhaps the goal is to eventually align your perception and cognition of an event with your
reaction to it so that you realize in the moment why it is and what it is that you’re doing and what
the next step is as you move forward with a focused state of mind.
Anyway, after going through all the techniques, we spent some time going through basic
multi attacker defences, and then I was placed in the middle of a large group of ‘helpers’ (thank
you guys) who attacked me incessantly with punches and knives and chokes and grabs. It was
very intense, and there was very little time between attacks. I think this portion lasted for quite a
while (it felt like a long time), and I definitely learned the lesson that you cannot perform under
pressure the way you perform in a class practicing techniques, and why it’s good to strive for
perfection in practice, so that when you don’t have time to think, you can still perform the moves
My technique was sloppy. Some of my defences failed and I had to try again to defend
myself. A couple times, I felt like I took too long to react, and a few times, I definitely got
stabbed. But at the end of it, I realized that the reactions to these attacks were slowly being
ingrained upon my brain. That though I wasn’t necessarily as aware as ‘this is an ice pick attack
with a knife so use a 360 defence and strike the opponent’, I responded with the appropriate
moves the more often than not. I understood the importance of practice and drilling, and I
realized that when put in a very intense situation, I am able to react. Even if I might not pull off
picture perfect technique, I am still able to defend myself.
After this portion, I sparred with four or five opponents in succession. The fitness I had
though was in a good place was a little lacking to say the least. To continue to fight so many
people for so long in the middle of attackers and in sparring was very difficult, and I was
definitely gassed (I also got a vicious leg cramp during the sparring: don’t drink coffee right
before your test). But I continued, and I think that that is the important lesson to be distilled from
Having had some time to reflect upon the experience, I feel that it has made me grow beyond
where I was as a yellow belt by pushing my limitations and my ability to function under pressure.
It was a very difficult test. Not insurmountable, but a significant challenge. I think it has shown
me areas in which I need to improve, but at the same time, given me the confidence to move
forward with training.