What a LONG day! I arrived at Equa Do before anyone else, including Sensei. I ate a few bites of McDonalds oatmeal and fruit, and then Sensei arrived. He let me practice a little to reassure myself that I knew what I was doing, then when Master Eric arrived we went inside and began to prepare. Sensei made sure I drank the rest of my juice and then we talked about nonsense and cuddled until Danny arrived, who tested for yellow belt today. Then obviously we began including Danny in our conversation, but I really blocked everyone else out until we were told to bow in for a group warmup. The group warmup was really geared toward the Tae Kwon Do students, but I participated as much as I could. Once the group warmups were done we were given about ten minutes to warm up individually, which I spent stretching out a little more, and having Sensei watch my weapons work. Finally, we were all told to line up in belt rank order along the walls of our training space.
Novices and white belts in Tae Kwon Do tested first, followed by yellow belts and a few more novices, and then another group of yellow belts. Once the yellow belts were done we got a five minute break. I spent this break trying to calm myself, by talking to Sensei. After that, the higher belts (green, purple, red) tested. I was amazed by the amount that these students knew, and were able to display on command. Then we saw an Escrima (stick fighting) demo, as one of the purple belts who was testing today is being trained in Escrima. Finally all the high belts were recalled to the floor, in full sparring gear. They went through three bouts, minimal contact, two minutes each. I then suddenly understood why we had been told to make sure we were sitting against the wall. This part was absolutely brutal.
Finally, at long last, Master Eric called the Hapkido students to the floor. He had one of the white belts pair with me, to hold a soft target for me to strike with my weapon. I was tested on the four point strike sequence, then on striking with the tip and hook of my cane. Jabs were next on the list. Then Sensei stepped in front of me and asked me to drop my weapon, focussing first on unarmed strikes : punch, hook, uppercut, palm strike, knife hand, ridge hand, rake, eagles beak, tigers maw, hammer strike, Ox-Jaw strike and elbow strike. I then demonstrated wrist releases, both crosshand and same side, with and without countergrabs. Then he asked me to show him my blocks, including my standard block, scoop (low) block and wing (high) block. Next came brush trap strike, arm bars, striking a moving limb, and striking the elbow to break. We moved from there onto identifying which hand was on my shoulder from behind, something I struggled with.
Master Eric came over at this point, and asked Sensei how my test was going. Sensei's response of "exceptionally well" prompted Master Eric to ask me to demonstrate my ability to strike at an unseen opponent coming at me from behind, and he and Sensei even doubled up on me for a minute, to force me to strike and block from multiple angles. Then I was asked to escape in multiple ways from rear naked chokes and two handed front chokes, and Sensei even threw in a few side chokes as well. Once I had done this to both Sensei's and Master Eric's satisfaction, Master Eric had Sensei help me demonstrate blocking/controlling the opponent with my weapon. From there, we moved onto removing my weapon from an opponent's grip, either by forcing them to twist a way they shouldn't, physically removing their hand with my own etc. That first method was followed up with a counterstrike.
There was a verbal component to my test as well. The first question was asked by Master Eric, who threw various strikes in my direction and asked me what the difference was between them. Answer: Nothing! The rest of the questions were asked by Sensei.
Q: Why do we learn?
A: To find our personal strength.
Q: What is Hapkido used for?
Q: What is the duty of a martial artist?
A: To act with dignity, honor, and respect.
The last technique I was asked to show was what to do if someone should try to grab at my seatbelt. The first grab was non aggressive, so a gentle two handed block was all that was necessary. When Anthony came at me a second time he became aggressive, so I began to strike at his ribs, and then his head until he was so concerned with blocking I was able to take him to the ground and would have followed this up with popping a wheelie onto his feet, but I stopped when he tapped out.
Then I was dismissed and I let my pain and fatigue show again. As is appropriate, I thanked my instructors before bowing out. At that time when Sensei and Master Eric asked if I wanted to know how I had done, of course I nodded. They looked at me, smiled, and told me...
I PASSED MY WHITE BELT TEST! I DID IT!
I know the road ahead of me is still very long, but I am proud of the milestone I reached today, as it is a significant one. I know my instructors are proud of me but most proud of all is Sensei, without whom I would never have begun this journey. I am excited to begin my path to yellow belt on Thursday.