It’s been a while since I posted something and it’s also been a while since my Blue belt test. Life has been so busy and I have no idea where the time went.
There were others who were meant to get their Blue belts before me and I never had the ambition to be the first Blue belt at UTKM, it just kind of happened. It is one of my pet peeves when people show up for the very first time, no matter if it is Krav Maga or Judo, and the first question they ask is “How long does it take me to get a black belt?”. Thank you, McDojos everywhere!
As for myself, I simply kept training and learning, and then at some point Jon talked about scheduling the test. We agreed on the Thanksgiving weekend in October (it’s the 2nd Monday in October in Canada). I started reviewing all the theory and making notes (writing things down helps me to memorize better), I watched videos on UTKMU and reviewed all the PowerPoint presentations.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had a rough idea; there will be sections where I have to demonstrate techniques and in-between those there will be written portions. I prepared for the fitness test, the Bar Or; 75 push ups, 85 sit ups and a 5km run. I struggled with the push ups since both my shoulders were hurting at the time (I’m still dealing with it but it is slowly getting better). When it comes to sit ups I feel more confident because I know that I have a strong core, but I still practiced, of course! Same with running – I hate running, I think it is incredibly boring, but since it is part of our tests, I sucked it up and ran. Jon kept telling me that the Blue belt test will not be as physically demanding as the Green belt test, well, that gave me some hope. Let’s face it, I’m not an athlete, my biggest strength is that I can keep going. The time allotted was 5 hours, but we all know by now that wasn’t going to be the case.
So we get started with the Bar Or – thank you for all the guys who ran with me. Again, I’m stubborn and I don’t care that pretty much everyone run faster, I stuck to my pace because I knew there was more to come.
Once we were back to the gym I had to deal with the first written test. The written tests were 20-45 minutes long and you really have to know your theory, there is no time to idle. I tried my best to keep my handwriting legible in spite of the adrenaline. Then we went through the White belt curriculum. After that another written test. You see the pattern.
I have to admit I underestimated the time it would require and the toll it would take on my body. Thank you to everybody who kept refilling my water bottle and providing me food. That’s the one thing I really recommend to whoever is next – bring food! I haven’t felt that exhausted in a long time, if ever – being stubborn paid off, I kept going and ignored the signs of my body wanting to quit. I somehow got a second wind, the exhaustion disappeared and I could finish off the last written section and the Green belt curriculum. After 7 hours of testing my biggest worry was I might not have passed. Imagine – 7 hours of testing and then being told I didn’t make it. Jon doesn’t hand out pity belts, if you don’t meet the minimum you won’t get your belt. Well, I got my Blue belt and I was very happy. I was shaking and felt very cold due to the exhaustion, I couldn’t hold the diploma still, my hands were shaking like crazy.
What are my takeaways from the test?
- Keep training and working, try to get in a better physical shape every day, not just when you receive the date for your test.
- Bring food.
- Get people to sign up as helpers. That should be a no-brainer and it wasn’t an issue with my test, but there were other tests when I was worried that there might not be enough people for the Circle of Death.
- There is always room for improvement.
I’m a perfectionist and when going through the curriculum I always want my technique to be perfect. That didn’t happen and I was disappointed in myself. When it comes to demonstrating sequences you rely on the attacker to attack a certain way. In real life the attacker is always right and you have to do whatever gets you out of there. I struggled with that, I wanted to demonstrate the sequences but sometimes I felt I had to skip because the parameters weren’t met for me to go to the next technique but for the one after that. It was a judgement call on my side, I want to make that clear.
For the Orange and Green belt curriculum everyone was trying their best for the attacks, but it was hard for some of the volunteers since they had never done some of the techniques. Kudos to you guys for still taking it on and probably somehow relying on me not to injure you.
Another question that is being asked is, “Should I still come to the Defence classes?” and my answer is “Hell yes!” First of all they teach the fundamentals on which higher curriculum is built up on. You only get good at things by keep training them. At the beginning you need a rough understanding, later on you are going to fine tune your techniques. We train for worst case scenarios and it is important that even if you are scared that your body (your nervous system) knows what to do. I’ve been training Judo for over 20 years and due to millions of repetitions I have moments where my body goes on autopilot and just does without me consciously thinking about it. Breakfalls are a great example, as soon as I’m in the air my body automatically responds. It also works with other Judo techniques – one day I was sparring (doing Randori) with a higher ranked Black belt who competed on international level, and I was able to take him out with a simple foot sweep, on account of those millions of repetitions. Don’t get discouraged by going through those techniques over and over again. Another important point is that you can connect with other people – everybody has a different way of learning and demonstration by the instructor is not always enough for a new person to understand what is going on. Being paired up with an advanced student can make that easier, not only for the beginner but also for the advanced student. By having to shift your explanation to make it work for the other person you might get a better understanding for the technique overall.
I’m also an assistant instructor, for me coming to as many classes as possible gives me the opportunity to meet students and connect with them, which then makes it easier for them to come to my classes because they already know me. Going to a Warrior class for the first time can be intimidating, I remember my first Warrior class very well.
The tests at UTKM are hard. During the Yellow belt test you can still try and blend in, because you are not alone in the struggle. All the tests after that put you on display and everyone is watching you. That was scary for me, I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself in front of all those people. I’m not really a person who likes being the centre of attention. But you won’t grow if you are not willing to get pushed out of your comfort zone every now and then.
I know that my article is going to be released with the podcast. Most of you know that I grew up in East Germany under Socialism. I was raised to shut up and not to speak up, keep your head down so that no one notices you. Going on Jon’s podcast is still scary, but it is important for my overall development as a person. It is crazy how long it took me to recognize and understand that conditioning from my youth, and to consciously work on it – to be honest, in the back of my head I’m worried about the consequences. If my mom knew about it she would totally freak out and tell me not to do a podcast or to take it down. This is what an authoritarian system does to people.
During the podcast you will see my cat Rambo strolling through the screen and at some point I had to take him and throw him behind me. What you probably cannot see is that my bed is right behind me and Rambo has a soft landing. So don’t worry, the weirdo is fine 🙂
Written by: Petra F. – UTKM Blue Belt