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My Shodan Experience - David Thomas

5th April 2014, Shodan grading day. 7 years of Karate, 3 years a 1st Kyu, 12 months of revision and it all comes down to this… and I still wake up at 4 a.m. when I can’t remember how to do Heian Godan! The day starts; breakfast of baked beans and toast; travel to the dojo; wearing my old friend the red and brown belt, hoping it is for the last time. Waiting in the hallway until a black-belt calls us in (I can’t even remember who it was); We line up in front of a table of CFTS blazers; scary! We start with Kumite… a bit wobbly at first, but getting better, then getting worse; Renshi shouting, “Your energy is flagging, pick it up!”, a sly check of the clock… only 10 minutes gone. I can’t do this for two hours! But we do. It is suddenly over and I realise I actually enjoyed it. Then the long wait for an answer, with friends I was punching and kicking 10 minutes before… pass or fail? What will I do if I fail? Can’t face that, but I will if I must. Get called back… It’s a pass for us all! I feel incredibly proud, then humbled, then sad. I am not going to be doing this again. Then the first trip to my Dojo. Not looking forward to this. How should I behave, poker face? Bright beaming smile? I will just be true to myself like the Dojo Kun says. When I put my brand new black-belt on for the very first time there in the Dojo, it felt curiously familiar. It took a while to pin the feeling down but I finally recognised it. It sounds silly, but I had the same feeling when I was a father for the first time. It would be too strong to say that my dojo is my family, but I felt the same desire to live up to my responsibilities and to 'do the right thing' by them. It’s a wonderful feeling and makes all of the hard work before and after the grading worth it. David Thomas, Shodan, 9th April 2014

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