The style of karate I did is called “Kyokushinkai” (which means “Ultimate Truth”) and it’s full contact. We weren’t allowed any padding, except the “cup” for the guys. The numbers of occasions when I would show up home limping and covered in bruises were frequent, to my mother’s dislike.
Looking back, I would have to say that the hardest belt test was the brown belt (the last one before the black belt), for me it was anyway. Physically it was the hardest. That evening, three of us were going for that test. I was the only girl. There weren’t that many women in classes back then. It was mostly a guy thing. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it. It’s always been easier to get along with the boys for me. I remember feeling queasy when one of the tested men couldn’t break his boards. He had bleeding knuckles and was ready to give up, but the teachers wouldn’t let him. He painfully did his ten fights. By the end he was crying. I was simply shitting cookies. Because I was so scared they made me go next, naturally. It went fairly well, despite being hard. I did more fights then the required ten. Once done, I even volunteered to fight other people being tested. I was on a high. Adrenaline will do that. Or I had received one blow too many to the head!
When I joined the dojo it was never my intention to become a black belt. I was training because I enjoyed it, not because I wanted that belt. The preparation for that test was more a mental game than anything else. One of my instructors, for at least one month before the test, would tap his thigh, looked at me and said: “better toughen those babies”. His scaring tactics did work. I was really afraid of him and knew I would have to fight with him during my black belt test.
Back then a shodan (first degree black belt) test was a day affair. There’s a written test on terminology, history, techniques, followed by a series of katas and pinans, then some tamashiwari (breaking) and then kumite. Because I was always at the school, and at every activity (I was doing kick-boxing as well, to improve my punching technique), I was “known”. That meant that some people were “waiting” for me… For a shodan we had to do 15 fights, of 1 minute min., but if the instructor was enjoying the fight it lasted longer. Overall the kumite portion lasted about 30 min., one fight after the other. And each person was there to “make you work” or to push your limits. This is when you had to dig deep inside yourself. Yes we did get bruised, and sometimes hurt, but once it was done there was no other feeling!
On that day, I remember walking to the dojo and all the way telling myself “This is the last time you’ll enter the dojo as a brown belt. Next time you’ll do this you’ll be a black belt!” Through out the test, when some fights were harder than other I would repeat that to myself. It was hard. It did hurt but what I did on a dojo floor no one can ever take that away from me. That much I know.