An Inside View of the Instructor Test

September 08, 2008

It already seems like a lifetime ago yet it was only last night. There’s life before taking the JKDU instructor test and life after it and very few get to experience the latter.I’ve written about the motivation: tired of wasting time, of not giving my training my best shot. I’ve written about preparing for it: 8 months of intensive training. (About 7 hours/week ) And now I write about doing it. Even though no matter how much I write about this, it is not something that can be shared very well. One must go through it to truly understand. When I watched previous tests, I knew it looked hard but now that I have taken the test, I know I didn’t know! I didn’t know my leg would start freezing on me when I was just warming up. I didn’t know I’d be so calm and focused. I didn’t know I would lose complete control over the communication between my brain and my body. No matter how hard I thought: “must-move-leg” my leg would not budge. I thought that maybe, under pressure, my mind would go blank. It did not. My body went blank. My mind was racing. I was in good spirits. I had slept very well the night before despite a mild sinus infection. I went over last minute details with Burton: how long in advance should I start warming up? What should the warm up routine be? I didn’t know who I was going to go against during the test, although it was pretty much a given that our only two female students, Cindy and Liz, would finally get a shot at being part of a test. I felt confident with just a few butterflies in my stomach when the afternoon rolled in. I took a nice nap during which I didn’t sleep! Just closed my eyes and kept escaping from the mount in my mind’s eye. I ate as usual (note to self, even under stress, appetite is not affected…) I got a little irritated as we rushed out the door to get to class. Once on location, I had 2 ½ hours before T-Time. I was pretty relaxed, cracking jokes and checking out the class. I was dressed in “civilian” clothes because, once I put workout clothes and my training gear on, that’s when it all starts. I gave myself a tennis ball/foam roller massage for about 30 minutes and started warming up at 8 pm. JKDU instructor Jarlo Ilano did a few rounds of open hand sparring with me and held focus mitts as well. I was sweating. My breathing was even. I thought I was pretty calm but my legs were already sore. Had I laced my shin guards too tight? No. Lactic acid was taking over already. I made sure to stretch. After that I kept moving to stay warm. The mats were in place. Burton was setting up the camera. Everybody was getting ready. We had a few spectators in attendance: students, training partners, and friends. JKDU instructor Walker Langley (in charge of photography) gave me a quick slap on the shoulder and said: “Freakin’ RE-LAX”! There might have been more words of wisdom but that’s what stuck. We started 10 minutes late at 8.40 pm. Burton introduced me and described the test. Right there, I noticed I wasn’t breathing right. My chest had tightened a bit and although I kept smiling as he talked, I was wondering if I’d be needing my inhaler (I suffer from mild asthma). Then one big breath went through and I felt much better. My first task was to display teaching abilities. I demonstrated and explained the “kick and stand up” technique. I was able to keep it short and to the point. Then I had to gear up. JKDU instructor Scott Ishihara was my corner man and gave me some word of advice too: “relax (notice a pattern there?), pace yourself, that first round can really sap out your energy.” JKDU instructor Creighton Hatico was my first “opponent”. I did pace myself and I did relax and that round felt good. I got a couple of good shots in and defended well. Knife against knife. Check. JKDU instructor Brad Lewandowski is next for the stick against stick round. I’m still doing good energy wise. I’m not pulling off all the stuff I’ve done in training but overall good performance. It really gives me a boost of energy when at the very end I take advantage of Brad closing in the distance and slash at his head. Hearing the stick hit his helmet gives me a “high” that takes me into the third round. Creighton is back for the kickboxing round. I’ve been partnering with Creighton a lot during training because there’s no way I’m sparring him during the test, right? WRONG! I start with a great kick to the groin followed up by a few more and some to the leg as well. But I’ve been working my head kick for months now. I’ve never ever used it once in class so that no one would be aware of my new trick and I know I need to pull it off fast. My first attempt lands right on his helmeted jaw and it takes a lot of effort not to throw my fist in the air and yell: YES! I do all that inside and stay focused to finish the round. Next is the clinch round and Brad is gearing up again. I’m wondering what my coach (and husband) is thinking sending Brad in for the Clinch. Brad is known to really give his all during our tests and he’s really good in the clinch. Sure enough, I’m going through 1min20sec of pushing against a Bulldozer. I get a couple of knees to the groin in but get taken down three times. It feels like we’re all over the mat: he, running me down, Me trying to stay on my feet. After that round, I’m exhausted. I start repeating my mantra as I did during training: Energy, Energy, Energy. I say that over and over. As my lips say the words, my whole brain is overtaken by the thought: “I’m so tired” The tired feeling which has already gotten hold of my body wants to spread its tentacles and squish my brain too so I must fight it back with my mantra: Energy, Energy, Energy. I probably look nuts pacing the mats mumbling stuff with my helmet on but it helps a lot. I’m now on my back and Cindy is in my guard. Burton has barely given the Go signal and she unleashes. I barely have the time to think: “Holly Smokes” and I must deal with the pressure she gives me. Somehow I get her on her back. From Side Control, I get to the mount. Now it’s like I’m surfing because she’s jerking me all over the place trying to escape and I hold on for dear life. I hear people shout: “come on Sarah, keep moving” and I’m thinking “no way! I’m not going to go anywhere. I’m staying in the mount and I’m resting”! My strategy is to wait for the very end of the round to go for a submission and as Burton gives me the 10 second warning, I do spin for and finish the armbar. Round 6 is up. I’m exhausted. I feel my legs buckle a bit. Liz is on the bottom and I have to pass her guard. She does a great job keeping me tight so I cannot throw the headbutt as I usually do. I pass her guard. She puts me back into halfguard and somehow my right arm is stuck under her. I am able to counter her first attempt at rolling me over but I cannot deal with the second attempt and I end up on my back, mounted and getting punched repeatedly. That’s when my body says: “bye, bye” and I can barely move. I think I’m frozen for a few seconds and then I dig deep, put my elbow in her thigh, bridge up and shrimp to put her back in half guard. (we kind of figured that due to exhaustion I’d end up mounted so we practiced that one a lot!). At some point Liz bends down and encourages me: “Come on Sarah. Keep moving” I am thankful to her and it does give me a quick boost. At the end of the round, as I lay on my back with my eyes closed, I feel Liz scoop me up in her arms to help me back up and I relish the feeling. Scott makes sure I get my Shin Guards back on before the last round. I can’t even bend to put them on myself and he does it for me. I’m completely leaning on his head for balance. I see Walker taking some photos and think: “I must look horrible” and “that will be cool to scrapbook”. I can’t believe I have one more round. I can’t believe, I’m that tired even after doing 3 minute rounds during training. Then I really can’t believe that JKDU instructor Shelton is the one showing up on the mat for my last round. (You gotta know Shelton to understand). I manage a kick to the groin as he rushes in, takes me down and mounts me. It’s like an Iceberg landed on my chest. I can’t move him. I can’t move myself. My legs are not part of my body anymore and refuse to move. I know what I should do. I just can’t do it! We’re at the edge of the mats so Shelton grabs me to turn me back towards the middle. Good, at least that looked like I was moving! Then I’m not sure what’s happening. I try to cover from the punches. I throw a few elbows to the groin. Shelton gives me a little space to move but I’m not moving then I end up turtle position. I want to roll back to guard and I cannot. I cover from more punches. My eyes are closed and I think: “This sucks!” At that moment, I’m dealing with major exhaustion and my ego is taking a beating too because it just feels like I’ve never trained before. All these people watching and I can’t even move! Then Burton says the sweetest word in the world: “Time!” and it’s over. Adrenaline is pumping. My legs are shot. Everyone is clapping, hugging me, congratulating me. It’s official. I did it.

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