Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.

Written by Jaye Sandhu 7-19-08 

This is the fourth time I would attempt to take the San-Dan test.  I had taken it twice before and failed under the original standards of the Jinenkan with Manaka Sensei.

This time the San-Dan test would be under the standards of Sensei Sukh Sandhu from The Gi Yu Dojo and their requirements are much more difficult and challenging.  But, what is being a martial artist, if you do not challenge yourself on a regular basis.  Though the testing material is similar to the Jinenkan, The Gi Yu dojo has also added some other testing material to showcase ones technical skills and maturity in the art.  This would be truly a daunting experience!

The first time I failed because I did not have the body mechanics of each technique.  Manaka Sensei told me that it must be crisper, more flow, where to place the foot…and so forth.  I took copious notes to adjust my mechanics accordingly.  The second time I did not have the intensity or the heart required in each technique.  Manaka Sensei told me that even though I had the mechanics down now, I did not have the intensity that is part of each school, nor an understanding of the give and take or flavor of each school. I took notes to adjust my heart accordingly.  The third time I could not take it due to an injury and some other nameless excuse.

5 months before the test…

The first day I woke up around 5:00 am, man was I tired.  But, since it is the only time I have to practice, I got myself in gear.  I looked over my testing notes, repeated them to myself and went outside to the patio deck.  I performed each technique a total of 3 times on each side, slowly, as the sun shone itself.  It took me about 30 minutes.

The next day, I tried to do the same routine and did not accomplish it.

The third day, I did the same as the first day and so it went for the next few weeks. One day doing, the next day not, slowly building my confidence and will to continue.  Finally, my body took over and said “hey, we have got to do this every day!” 

So as the night would wane and the dew sparkled, I arose every morning to practice for 30 minutes.  It felt good to have a light sweat worked up by the end of my practice; I am ready to face each day refreshed and anew.

Every night I started to think about the morning ahead and would visualize the exact progression of the techniques from first to last in order.  This helped me mentally remember each school, the name of the kata and the meaning behind it.

Slowly and surely I gained better movement through repetition, better understanding through my nightly visualization, and better insight of the give and take through my slow practice. My confidence level and intensity level started to grow with my daily practice.  I was looking forward to the test.

1 month before the test…

I had at this point been feeling very comfortable with the techniques I had practiced.  But I needed an uke, someone who would work with me to perform the techniques correctly to show the lineages inherent in each of the kata.  I found an uke and that is when I realized there still was much more work to do.  I found that even though I am the one performing the technique as shidachi, the role of the uke is very, very important.

Uke must know the school the technique is coming from and the correct setups related to that school.  If he did not, it would throw of timing, the give and take would change, the distance would change, the leverage would be different, the technique would have to be altered to be effective and efficient.  But the most important point, was that if the uke did not understand the technique and set up, the result could be an injury to both parties.

So, now instead of being the shidachi, I had to become the uke as well to figure out the correct responses and reactions depending upon the lineage, the technique, and the various physical traits of the uke(s)…ie; taller, shorter, heavier, lighter, faster, slower…etc

As I put myself in the position of uke, the techniques started to come to life all on their own.  When I practiced with my uke, I could tell if his attacks were formed with the right mentality and the correct strategy of the lineage being showcased.  Once I understood this I could make my techniques work with minor adjustments and still show the flavor of the school.

This is a very important part of training, understanding the various responses that uke may take and you can only learn it by being the uke, by becoming what you are fighting.  So I did and it helped me immensely.  As a side note, I want to thank my uke(s) for helping me to learn and grow.  You were a tremendous help to me.

Day of the test…

Well, the day had arrived for the test, I woke early and did not train, just kept the confidence and body knowledge of training right below the conscious line of my mind.  I just let the training of the last few months sustain me throughout the day.  As evening approached I went for a swim with my kids and played, laughed and in general had a great time.  I dropped them off and headed to the Gi-Yu dojo. 

I arrived and prepared to take the test.  As there were people in front of me for testing, I just relaxed.  I felt completely at easy as I watched them test. I felt no fear or trepidation.  Just happiness for everyone, including myself.

Then it was my turn and the routine training for months that had been lying low came rushing back to me.  I surrendered to myself and my body surrendered to the training and knowledge that pass or fail I would take this test and learn about myself.  I would try to discover who I really am in this setting.  In surrendering to my practice of months, I found everything became quiet in my mind’s eye as I preformed the techniques, only having intensity when needed and calm when I called for it.

The techniques washed over me all by themselves and I surrendered to every aspect of what I had learned and am still learning.  There was only the dojo and the people in it.  There was only myself and uke. There was only myself and my training.

There was only my surrender.