Somehow, this doesn't seem like it fits under "Health and Fitness", but whatever...
As some of you know, last Friday and Saturday was my black belt testing. The test was four hours each day, and I can honestly say that there's nothing I could've done to be more prepared for it. All of the physical tasks they gave us were things I could handle...hundreds of push-ups, some with people sitting on my back, grappling, sparring, army crawling through the woods and river bank, running a few miles carrying medicine balls, crunches and similar moves on gravel and asphalt...you name it, we did it. And if everyone else had to do it once, I did it twice...or more, or with some added measure of difficulty.
Although it was not a large portion of the test in terms of time, the grappling was the hardest part of the test. The dojo I trained at has no one qualified to really teach ground fighting and as a result, I had almost no experience with grappling and jiu-jitsu. However, the larger school we tested with has several specialists in this who teach there. So I was already uncomfortable with it even with other students, but the people I had to grapple with were belt holding amateur fighters and fight coaches, one of which had something like 97 wins to his name, I found out after. The hardest thing about this was when I was inevitably choked out and had exhausted every option I knew of to get out, I'd finally tap before passing out from a lack of oxygen and instead of ending the match or starting over from a standing position, my opponent (or opponents) simply loosened his grip a few inches and started choking me again. This went on for what seemed like eternity and I never want to see a tape of it. I don't think I did anything but panic and I'm not sure there was anything I could've done.
The second day, we repeated all this again, but in the river and on top of being continually choked, I was pulled under water as well. To make it worse, this was done gauntlet style spending several minutes with each opponent before I could finish. It was absolutely the most traumatizing event of my life. After Friday night's testing, I arrived back home at almost 11 pm, sobbed, tried to eat some dinner, then laid awake in bed afraid of what would happen the next day until my alarm went off at 6am the following morning. My throat hurt from all the choking. I had been beaten up a ton of different ways, picked up and slammed on the floor in ways I had only seen in UFC fights, feared for my life and when I'd be able to get my next breath for some portions of the test. Through it all, I tried to keep reminding myself that they couldn't legally kill me. Once, while being choked, I even tried to force myself not to tap, hoping that if I had actually gone unconscious, that at least that portion of the testing would end. Unfortunately, I didn't have the nerve to allow it to happen and I ended up tapping. I felt like a failure in every possible way.
Through the entire thing, my sensei taunted, by calling me "P90" and asked "How's that working for you now?" The last thing we did on the second day before the belt ceremony was sparring with two of the very experienced amateur fighters/fight coaches from the school who I had previously grappled with. I had the crap beaten out of me here, just like everything else, but at least this time I knew enough to trade a few blows when I could. My first opponent in sparring was a tall, lanky guy like myself, and within the first minute, I landed a left hook on his temple that rocked him pretty hard and I could tell he was wobbly. All I could remember was the owner of the school, a 4th degree black belt himself with more experience than any of them, telling us that none of us were going to beat his instructors today and if he thought for a second that we might, he'd step in himself. With that in mind, I stepped back a second and let him recover, rather than swarming him and trying to finish the fight. After he recovered, he did end up getting the best of me, but I can say that no matter what they hit me with, I got back up every time before they even had a chance to tell me.
The test was about survival and I had survived. I was told afterwards by my sensei that he had never been impressed by anyone who he's ever seen test as he was with me. He also said that because of my superior conditioning, they felt like this was the only way to get me to my breaking point and find out if I would continue after. To be honest, I really feel like it was over the line and I'm still somewhat traumatized by it, but I did survive. I'm still trying to decide if I want to continue training with these people and associating myself with them, knowing what they did and that they think it was OK to do this. I certainly wouldn't want to "inspire" anyone else to go into testing and have anything like this happen to them. I've already decided that there's no way my wife and kids will ever test for black belt if I have anything to say about it. The women and children testing (and for the most part, the other two men) did not go through what I did, but I still feel pretty strongly about it. My sensei has informed me that he wants me to teach Tuesday night's class because it is the most attended of our classes, but like I said, I don't even know if I want to go yet.
As of right now, my left leg is barely usable and I can't bend it or tense the muscle in any way at all. My right leg is strained as well and feels to be getting worse as I try to compensate for the other side not being able to handle the load. I have several bruises around my ribs, can only turn my head maybe 30 degrees each direction and it hurts to do so, a possible broken toe, a black eye, busted lip, and I'm seeing a grey spot through my right eye. But I expected most of that. The psychological scarring from the grappling (read: prolonged choking with occasional chances to breath)feels worse.
All that said, I did what I said I would and I now have a black belt. Whether I ever tie it on again is to be determined.