Martial Arts

My Orange Belt Test!!

It’s like being at Disneyworld (or your favorite amusement park). You’re having fun, riding the cool theme rides, seeing the entertainment–it’s all good. You’ve avoided the crappy food, the crowds are small and you are remembering the sunscreen. Smooth. What a great time!

Suddenly, your group heads to the next Fast Pass ride: the biggest, baddest roller coaster in the park.

No one bats an eyelash, everyone else is excited, but you feel all the fun draining right out of you, positively leaking out your fingers and toes into a trail behind you. You feel the dread. The flutters in the stomach, the sinking energy.

You wait in line, telling yourself it’s all fine, that those screams from previous riders are screams of joy and fun, and that it is one and done and you’re off the roller coaster.

Too soon you are at the front of the line, and it’s your turn to step inside. Your hands shake as you grip the side of the car and get in, knees a little wobbly. Your mantra, repeated over and over, “I’m fine, this is fine”. You sit in the roller coaster car and the restraint lowers down and you realize…

You’re not fine! You’re nauseous and ready to throw up before the ride even starts.

The anxiety hits, the panic, and you realize you really, really, really want to get out. Now. Who cares who sees you run away? You raise your hands to wave to the attendant, to tell him to get you the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of this tiny metal shroud of death but the ride is just starting and everyone else’s hands are up in the air in ready excitement. You’re frozen with fear and you really want to throw up and leave as you climb the first hill.

That, people, is how I experience belt testing. There is no enjoyment, there is no fun. There is anxiety at the chairs filled with watching black belts. The sweat and rapid, shallow breathing in only the top third of my lungs that is in no way conducive to the oxygen and hydration needed for the remaining hour and fifty minutes of the two hour test.

Sadly, I doubt Mr. Ninja can be bribed to get me out of any future tests.

How do I get out of this trend of anxiety? I’ve been a little mystified as to exactly why I do get this anxious. I’ve pondered and explored and I realize a few things. 1. I still have imposter syndrome. I look around and I do NOT feel like I fit in. 2. I am still out of shape, and I don’t have the endurance for a two-hour test right now. 3. Perhaps all the ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ respect part has freaked me out a little. On one hand, one of the ninjas said, it’s just your friends sitting up there. But on the other hand, I turned around to go sit down and was reminded to back up before I turned around. So it doesn’t feel like an atmosphere of friends working out–it feels like there is a concrete structure that I still don’t quite know. I can turn my back to a friend, you know?

I guess the biggest part is the self-esteem, the being out of my comfort zone and not feeling like I can actually keep up and fit in and do this for real. An image I have is of all these super fit ninjas running, kind of like in high school gym, and here I am, all chubby, trying to keep up. Like the nerdy kid trying to be one of the cool kids.

Is that real? Is that an accurate look at reality, or is it skewed by a lack of confidence in myself? I think both. I have stayed active through yoga, pilates, tai chi and other workouts but I’ve never really excelled at anything. Twice in my life I’ve wanted and tried to be good at running and injuries side-lined me, and I ended up just quitting for a while. (The stress fracture was a legit reason to quit for a few months, but I could have gone back to it.)

The first class after this test, they were being really nice to me. I’m not sure why…do they feel sorry for me, and my test anxiety, and embarrassing the hell out of myself? Are they trying not to laugh at me so they’re laughing with me? I don’t know. This is truly the closest I’ve come to quitting since I started nine months ago. I have those moments of who am I kidding?

All I know is, I cannot, CANNOT go into another test, freak out and throw up and not do so well. I just can’t embarrass myself that way again. Luckily it’ll be months before I test again, so maybe I can resolve some issues before that one. Maybe the confidence just comes with time. I’m training for a 5k at the end of August (I’d like to run the whole thing but I may end up doing walking intervals) and that should help with endurance.

The good news is I made it through the test and I don’t have to redo it!!

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