My son will be testing for his Jr. 1st Black Belt in Kenpo in a couple of months. Part of the test – actually, a large part of the test – is just physically surviving the damned thing. I’ve been through it twice and it nearly wrecked me back when I was in my 30s. At some point, I’ll be doing it again for 3rd black and, let me tell you, I’m not looking forward to it.
At any rate, part of the prep for the test involves three-hour-long Saturday classes where we run through the techniques and katas in the system, spar, do hands-on work with partners – more on that in a little bit, I’ve got a cool story – and run and do push-ups and run some more and then do some sit-ups and then more running and yada, yada, yada. Someone did some estimating based on Fitbit calculations and a normal one hour class can burn up to 1100 calories, so you can imagine what we’re burning off in three hours. Actually, there’s probably not much need to imagine, it’s simple math: in three short hours we’re burning off more calories than one of those Baskin Robbins Oreo shakes.
So, “tired at the end” barely covers it. It’s a rough workout and the final test will run over the space of a few days. In the end, you feel like you’ve earned that damned belt. Which is a good feeling. My kiddo will probably be wasted after the test, but he’ll have his first black belt and that’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Sure, there are plenty more to go – including testing for the adult versions – but earning that first black belt will only ever happen once.
Getting to that point has been a multi-year process. I started teaching him Kenpo was he was about three or four and dragged him kicking and screaming into the school when he was five. That was six years and two schools ago (our old teacher retired) and he’s now on the cusp of finishing the first step into a much larger world.
It’s a long process to get to that point and I have to applaud his determination. Even though there were several times he wanted to quit, he kept going. That was partially me telling him he couldn’t quit, but it was also him working through the system and struggling to get better at it even when he really didn’t want to be there because the siren song of video games was too loud in his head.
Just like writing that book, or finishing that degree, or any of the myriad other long-running things people do, getting to the first black belt takes determination. It’s hard work. But, let’s face it, if it was easy everyone would be doing it and getting handed a reward for doing something easy is a total waste of everyone’s time. Hooray! You managed to make it to work on time! Here’s your trophy. While I could wax philosophical for days about just how stupid it is to hand out meaningless trophies for trivial things, I’ll save that for another post. For the end of this one, I’ll just say two things: a) I’m really proud of my son right now and b) whatever it is you’re working on that seems like it’s taking freaking forever to get done, keep going until it is done. You’ll thank yourself for it at the end.
Need a little motivation to keep going? Drop a comment. I’m usually fairly good at yelling at people to keep going. 🙂
Now, as for that cool story I was going to tell. If you’ve never hear of Walter Jon Williams, he’s a sci-fi writer here in Albuquerque. He’s also a long-time Kenpo student (let me just say, he’s got a lot of stripes on his belt). Mr. Williams has been coming to our black belt prep Saturdays and I’ve had the opportunity to work out with him over the past couple. Let me tell, it’s not often you get to meet a writer you like, but also get to kick him. He’s a nice guy with a wicked elbow strike and potent punch. If you’d like to see more about his writing, go check out his website/blog. I suppose I should also tell him Google thinks he’s been dead since the 30s.