Back around Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, I put forth some summer goals. There were only four, some of which were more measurable than others. (I used to work in university planning, and we were very big on measurable goals.) The most measurable of this year's goals was to earn my yellow belt in Myo Sim karate. That's about as measurable as you can get; either I would earn it or I wouldn't. Well, I did.
One starts Myo Sim karate as a white belt. After that come yellow, green, two levels of blue, three levels of brown, and then black, of which there are varying degrees. There are defined requirements for each level. For yellow belt, I had to know four kata or basic forms, one tae ryun (a form done with a partner), five self defenses (responses to various grabs), three one steps (responses to a punch), six kicks (three different styles of kick done with either the front or the back leg), three punching combinations, and two partner exercises (putting together punches and kicks against an opponent). Getting a yellow belt means remembering the moves in each part or technique, doing them in the proper stances, and doing them safely. This last part is really important because not doing something safely can mean that you or the person you're working with gets very hurt very fast.
I have tested for two different belts in kendo, but this was my first rank exam in karate. One thing that is different is that the karate exams are judged by every black belt in attendance, and that the judging involves written comments on all the things demonstrated. While this contributes to your nervousness during the test, it's helpful to go over the comments in detail and learn from them. And comments are as apt to be positive as negative. Although many of the comments I got related to things I can and will change, I also got several comments that my kicking has much improved over the last few weeks. I put in a lot of extra time working on my kicking in between the time I was invited to test and the test itself; it was nice to know that the extra time paid off.
Next up is green belt. This one will be harder. There's not necessarily more material to learn, but the bar gets raised a bit. It will no longer be enough to remember and demonstrate the moves and to do them safely. Besides that, I will need to "make the punches look like punches, and the kicks look like kicks." In other words, my technique has to reach a certain level of quality. I won't make green this summer; it might be a stretch to try to make it in the fall. I will get it at some point; it's just hard to say when that might be. In the meantime, I have three other summer goals to work on during the time I'm not working on karate (or kendo), not to mention job, family, and a few other life priorities.