I’m alive… barely.
My UTKM Orange Belt test was a surreal experience that I will carry with me as one of the most remarkable adventures that I have ever endured. I distinctly remember getting into my car and needing to pause before driving away as my mind was frantically catching up with the momentum of the day. When I arrived at home, I tried putting some notes down on paper but I kept getting lost in thought as various parts of the test would come roaring back and dominate my mind. Good thing my family was away, as who knows how long I was sitting at the kitchen table, slightly catatonic with an open beer. After a few days of recovery, I tried again to write a post in a flowing fashion, but I keep gravitating to some simple themes and observations that I would like to share: Gratitude and Takeaways.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who participated in my test and put themselves on the line. The reason I say this is that we will always commend the learner for pushing their expected limits, but I now realize how much we really owe the test assistants as they endure extensive physical punishment for our benefit and progression. I know at times during the test, I was a little too wound up and went a little too hard or reacted a little too aggressively given the amplitude of adrenaline. This fundamental level of commitment by the everyday people among the UTKM students is quite remarkable and I’ve realized that testing is a celebration among UTKM peers as much as it is a rite of passage for the student. All you have to do is just look at the group celebration photo, you are at the centre but the base is willingly surrounding and supporting you – pretty good stuff!.
After going through my first individual test, I realize that the further our commitment extends into the UTKM system, the more strategic we have to be with our time. As much as I would love to increase the training time relative to my progression, the fact is that I cannot. To relieve the psychological pressure in the week leading up to my test, I actually dropped many of the physical activities that I was trying to squeeze in along with work. I was simply exhausted and I felt that I just needed to work on my mental preparation and remind myself that my consistent physical training will pay off. Also, I took every opportunity to sleep or relax in order to try and come into Sunday (test day) feeling refreshed. Normally I relish having a crazy work week leading up to training and using the regular Sunday classes as a pressure release, but this test was different and I wanted to be in a more agile state of mind vs. my normal “move forward aggressively” approach.
As I age and progress at UTKM, I will also need to be just as strategic at recovery as I am at preparation. I will admit that I did not want the day to end, I did not want to go to bed and I kept looking at my bruises, cuts, scrapes, and my hard-earned new belt. Upon arriving home, I “made” (Ha! Not cooking, just acquiring) my favourite junk food meal – pizza, beer, chips, and chocolate – then watched the opening F1 Grand Prix for the 2022 season… but I cannot remember any of it after sitting down. Believe it or not, the next day, I experienced such an emotional low, a withdrawal like no other, most likely from adrenaline withdrawal and the physiological/psychological fatigue truly setting in. We always note that situational awareness is key, so I reminded myself at different points of day that these feelings will pass and the body will recover with some active management including stretching, increased water consumption, and spending more time with colleagues sharing jokes and laughs. As the week progressed, the symptoms improved but I did decide to take a complete training break to catch up with family and, true to form, my body in a few weeks went from sore, to refreshed, to restless. When I am physically restless again, then I know I’m good (mentally and physically) to train again.
As a final note, I will say that my favourite part of the test was the individual recap and reflection. As each participant recalls what they saw, heard, and felt during the test and you begin to recognize the size and complexity of it. The compliments and accolades are nice but it’s the recounting of the shared experience that makes the whole event truly memorable. One more genuine gift to you from all ranks, regardless of their position or skill level. Simply amazing.
Written by: Ted E. – UTKM Orange Belt