Part 3 of the black belt exam held on 5/7/16
After all of the one steps the students got to spar. This I feel is an important and fun part of the exam, but I don’t believe it is by no means the most important. Personally I feel that many schools use the sparring as the way to say we are tough and our students are tough; so a requirement is set that you must spar for X amount of rounds. I see my students spar in school every week, I know which ones are tough and I know the ones who don’t care for it but still do it. For them it is a struggle just to get out and do it, and for whatever reason they don’t enjoy it. Not liking sparring doesn’t mean they don’t like training, that they are wimps or anything of the sort, they just don’t care for hitting others for prolonged periods.
So we do spar, if we have a large test the students get to fight a lot, if we have a small test they get to fight some matches and I waive requirements such as multiples and endless rounds of sparring. In this exam I waived the multiples and instead Bryce, Kimberly, Olivia and Kaitlyn all got to padded weapon spar. In padded weapon sparring the students choose a weapon and then face off against their opponent and go after it. Sometimes the students choose the same weapon such as the escrima sticks and sometimes they choose unequal weapons such as the nunchaku (flail or flexible weapon) vs. bo (staff). You know while some of the kids don’t like to spar, they have no problem hitting each other with padded weapons, even though they are wearing less gear and the weapons hurt more. Go figure.
Bringing it back around to why I believe things haven’t changed much since that first test 32 years ago. Back then we still sparred, my students still had to do one steps for their belt. Self-defense was still an important part of the exam. When sensei Proctor told Holly to defend herself against David (my roommate) he just wanted to see her win, he didn’t care how, it was simply to win. So she hit him a few times to loosen his grip and then threw him to the ground BOOM! A much smaller person defeated the bigger person.
Likewise, now after earning black belt rank in five systems, teaching here at the Rec. Center for nine straight years, raising several students to black belt rank, etc. etc. I still focus on trying to have the student learn to defend themselves and I really care more about that part of the art than how high they can kick, how many trophies they won, how loud they can scream, or how many rounds they fight.
After our first black belt exam sensei Proctor told me “Mark, your kids did real good. I could pick apart their kata, I could pick apart their sparring, but their self defense was great. And that is really the way it should be.” After this test he told me once again that the kids did great and “their self-defense was still excellent”. And that is really the way it should be.