I took the 2nd Kyu test today, and I have the video from my trusty “bloggie” to prove it. Sensei said I and the 3rd Kyu first act passed. I think Sensei didn't drag the test out too long since he has seen me practicing before class for the past few weeks and I was doing all the techniques listed. So he must have cut me some slack.
But, when you do something like this you want to have it all down rock solid. If I really wanted that, I suppose I could have waited until some later date. But I kind of like the feeling of diving in whether you are ready or not and hope you rise to the occasion. Using an old photo developing analogy...After watching as much of my test as I could (who was the fat old guy wearing my gi?) I can say although I didn't shine, I managed a fine no gloss finish with only a few scratches on the final product. Then again I have never been a perfectionist and others were quite harsh on the quality of those old one hour photo developing places. But enough about developing film, that is so 20th century.
One aspect of the practice that I find fascinating is just the psychology of taking a test. Yes, I want to be good at Aikido and do well on these tests, but actually I think I savor this feeling of being in over my head. Where is the glory in taking a test if you are kick-ass already? And I am almost always in over my head. It is not self modesty when I say I am really not very good at Aikido. I see and feel my clunky clumsiness and after 5 years I kind of doubt I will smooth out a many of these rough edges. But it kind of doesn't matter.
For me the Aikido practice is about something other than being a Aikdo master. I will genuinely try to always improve but I am not in it to show all the cool stuff I can do. I am there to participate. Participate in the experience, in the techniques as Uke and Nage and feeling the “magic” of those times you say “What the hell just happened? That was cool!”. And test taking is just another experience you get to take part in.
The sensation of sitting there just before the test starts...it is like jumping out of an airplane, which I have only done once but I think it is somewhat appropriate to compare these things. BUT the dojo is a pretty safe environment where the worst that can happen is you fail the test and try again some other time.
That said, I have to admit that if I want to take the next test and certainly the shodan test (black belt), I really do need to nail down the specifics on all these techniques. To the point it won't matter if my mind goes blank when Sensei calls the technique, like what happened this morning. And I automatically remember those basic details like going lower for koshi nage on somebody my height or shorter. Sooooo....there is tons more work to do and I'll keep at it, but if it takes me another 5 years to feel ready for shodan test I'll almost be 60 years old. And even if 60 is the new 50, it sounds old to me.
The video is somewhat similar to my one skydive jump way back in 1980, except I had a static line and no jump-suit and helmet. I wore my standard gear of the time, jeans, red wing boots, t-shirt and a jeans jacket.
As I remember it, all the thrill was the anticipation and stepping out and holding onto the wing strut. The descent itself was a little anti-climatic, well except for the last 5 seconds before I hit the ground.