The Journey to Shodan; 1st Dan; Black Belt
(written by Sandy Verreyne)
You walk into this dojo, everything is strange and you are in awe of the black belts, the seniors, the “giants” who teach you how to move, how to stand, discipline, respect and ethics. Your jaw is on the ground and you wonder if and when you will be where they are now. You put your white belt on and your karate journey starts!
Each of our journeys are different. Some of us started karate at a young age, stopped mid-teens and only returned to the dojo many years later. Some started karate in their mid-teens and have persevered through all the obstacles you face as a teenager. A few came from other dojos seeking something else, something better and others only started in their thirties, or forties and are now the inspiration to so many of us.
2016 delivered the first ever group of 10 Solis Ortus students to attempt their Shodan grading. Grading is scheduled for Saturday, 15 October 2016. As the group is too big to train during our normal class times, our sensei graciously gives up his time to teach us at his home. And so the Saturday morning early trainings sessions are booked and we get split into 2 groups.
Saturday, 2 July 2016 is a cold, very cold, winter’s morning. The sun is out at 7 when the first group starts with their intense technical training and preparations for Shodan. We start with the technicalities of a kekomi geri. We concentrate more on the cold that cuts through our gis and jackets than we do on the kick itself. The whole group spent about 2 months perfecting the kekomi geri and it was worth every pick up, butt cramp and tired legs!!!
Two weeks prior to grading we dig deep and we put all our efforts into perfecting everything. We train 4 times a week and we work together as a group. We are united in our effort to make it to the top and make our dojo and sensei proud.
This group of 10 consists of a variety of people. 4 females and 6 males. The females range from 15 to 52 years of age and the males 15 – 54 years of age. We all have the same collective goal that we are working for, but for each this goal means something else. We all deal with different life issues and we do the best we can to prepare for grading.
Saturday 15 October 2016 came way too soon. Are we ready? Yes we are! Are we nervous? You can bet your auntie we are! We start the day with a 3 hour pre-grading course from 09:00 – 12:00. We have a 45 minute lunch and then we start the grading. A group of approximately 50 student from all over the country are grading to shodan and get called out in groups of 4. They start with the youngest and work their way up from there. On the panel is some of our idols and our own Sensei Eugene is leading the grading, so you definitely want to give it more than your absolute best.
Out of our group of 10, three of our fellow karatekas sadly did not pass the grading. Luckily, the door to your shodan never closes after a fail because we will all stand behind them again when they attempt the grading in May 2017. And their silver lining in this situation is that they already know it all and they know what is expected of them, now they have ample time to perfect every movement, placing of the foot and distance of the punch!
Out of our group of 10, seven successfully graded to Shodan. Congratulations guys, now our real training starts.
When you put on your white belt your journey starts, yet, so we all thought. But then we get to wear our black belts and we know that the journey only starts now. All that we thought we knew, we now know that it was only the tip of an enormous ice berg. Now we have the opportunity to really learn, to be taught by our countries best and occasionally attend a seminar hosted by Japan’s best.
Thank you Solis Ortus for providing the space to grow. Thank you Sensei Eugene for sharing all your knowledge with us and giving us the tools to succeed. Thank you to our families and friends and fellow karatekas for motivating us, believing in us and supporting us.
ONE WAY ….JKA!!!!!