'Are you nervous?' this was something I was asked a lot in the run-up to the grading last Sunday Morning. Answer: 'Not really.' I hesitate to say it was a piece of pish, partly because that would be vulgar, but mostly because I have no doubt that steps could be taken to ensure future gradings are hellish if I make light of the experience.
But the truth is, after judo gradings on the 1st Dan mat (i.e. people fighting for their black belt) last Sunday held few terrors. The only ghastly moment was when I asked how much it would cost and was told £80--which I believed. (£25 in fact.) To use an analogy from the world of dentistry, if novice level karate gradings are a scale and polish, judo gradings are root canal fillings. And at black belt level, they are root canal fillings when the dentist is John Geilgud off The Marathon Man.
For a start, last Sunday's examination was done within the club by our own coach. It was held in a small private room at the Leisure Centre. (Rather than in a hall the size of an aircraft hanger reeking of testosterone and populated by psychotic teenagers and blokes with half their teeth missing.) Our sensei (coach) held a brief training session before the grading to refresh us on our various waza (techniques), then we were away. For those of you interested in such things, (basically, my Mum), I came away with a level 2 pass. There are 3 pass levels, with 1 being 'teacher's pet' and 3 being 'could do better'. I gather it gets a lot harder as you progress through the grades, culminating in a 3hr exam for 1st Dan. They speak of passing out from terror and exhaustion, of bleeding toes and other things the Geneva Convention was supposed to put a stop to.
But that's a long way off, and at this point, I would gladly spend another Mothering Sunday in this manner. Our new belts were awarded yesterday night at the training session. I was warned not to wash it with my kit. Hah! I knew that already! Martial arts laundry-waza is obviously a transferable skill.