Rocky’s Tourney and a Taste of Melancholy

“How would you feel if we were the only adults in synchronized?” Teri asked. “Would you feel like you’re stealing a trophy from some 10-year-old?”

“What? Why?” I said looking around. Sure, enough, very few adults had shown up so far. Rocky’s tournaments typically start late. But, even so, we could tell it was going to be a kid-heavy tournament this time. Of course, to be totally honest, there’s usually not many adults in synchronized. Usually, there are just enough adult teams to ensure we don’t feel like complete tools when we participate.

“Well, I will now,” I said, frantically looking for just one other group of adults working on a kata together. “Let’s just wait until they call the event.”

“To do what?”

“To decide if we’re going to compete…”

“We have to,” she said quietly. “This could be our last chance to do this together.”

For a second, I was confused. Then, I remembered that synchronized kata was only for kyu level (under black belts). Teri has been an ikyu for a while. It is probable (in fact, it is very likely) that she will be shodan by the September tournament.

“Did you get a date yet?”

“Nope. You?”

“Sensei sent me an email last week that said to review my history questions. So, I’ll be testing for ikyu any day now.”

“What about black belt? Has he given you any idea…”

I gave a half smile. That’s not how we do things at my dojo. “When Sensei says I’m ready.”

To be honest, I spend a lot of time trying not to think about the shodan test. For a long time, it was just too far away to even contemplate. I joined karate to get in shape and, at first, didn’t care about the whole “black belt thing.”

Then, when I was receiving my green belt, Sensei said only about five of his female students ever made it to green belt. And all of those, he said, went on to black belt. It was at that moment, that achieving shodan became a possibility…even a goal.

But the problem is my past is littered with unachieved and discarded goals. For some reason, when I work really hard at something, when achieving that goal is within my grasp, I just quit. I blame it on circumstance. I blame it on finances. I blame it on a lot of things. I think, though, the problem is probably me.

So, right now, I’m alternating between ignoring it all together or telling myself that it’s not a goal, but a milestone. Near as I can figure, after talking to a lot of people who have already gotten their black belts, it’s kind of like high school graduation. It’s a big deal and an important milestone. But, once it’s over, the “real” studying begins.

I like the idea…but, it’s still kind of a goal. So, every once in a while, I panic and have to put my head between my knees. (Metaphorically speaking.)

A little while later, while waiting to begin our weapons kata, I leaned in close to Teri. “Do you realize, that some day we’ll be up there,” I said, jerking my head toward the judges chairs. “Some kyu level will be competing and later bitch in her blog that we weren’t paying attention when she did her kata.”

“Do you think you could do that? Judge other people?” Teri asked.

“I don’t know. It would be weird to score someone from a different style. It would probably be weirder to judge a kata you’ve worked on a hundred times.” I paused. “I think I could handle being a corner judge for sparring. Maybe.”

“So, you won’t compete?”

“Oh, no, I’ll compete. Steve and Adam do,” I said gesturing toward the ring where the black belts were already performing their weapons kata.

We watched their ring quietly for a moment.

“We would be competing with them,” Teri said.




Here’s the fun stuff:

Teri and I got second in synchronized kata out of five teams. Not the high note I would have liked to have finished on, but a good showing. The first place winners were a father-son team who put in a lot of time working on their coordination and spacing. They started their kata facing opposite directions, so their final move was a simultaneous punch toward each other’s face.

Neither of us placed in weapons kata. There were ten or more competitors. A group from a “new” school (or at least a group we haven’t met before) had some powerful kata and cleaned up in this event. We didn’t have time to talk to any of them to learn about their school. Judging by the stains on the back of their uniforms, I’m going to guess they do a lot of grappling at their school.

Teri and I competed against each other for open handed kata. (There were two other adult women at the tournament, but they were a lower rank and separated from us.) This time I did kusanku and Teri did sunsu.

When we were lining up prior to competing, the head judge said, “OK, Teri you’re first. Stacy, you’re second.” He meant the order in which we would compete, but I actually snorted. I did manage to keep my self-deprecating comments to myself.

After I entered the ring and before I started my kata, Teri calls out “Go, Stacy.” And, for some reason, it got oddly quiet right before she cheered. So, it was like one lone voice floating through the gym. I cracked up laughing.

I got first and Teri got second. (I know. I was surprised, too. But not so surprised that I forgot to exclaim, “Three years I’ve been waiting for this!”) I think they said our official scores were 23.4 and 23.3, respectively. (I do remember the .3 and .4 part…not totally sure about the big number in front.) We shook the judges’ hands and got our comments. My favorite was from judge who told me I had the “eyes of a paid killer.” I just hope I didn’t offend him when I started laughing.

Sparring: I went against a purple belt. Lost 3-2. I did well as long as I was able to keep her within kicking distance. If she managed to close the gap enough to use hand techniques, I was toast. Her upper body techniques were way better than mine. But it was a good fight and I know what to work on for next time. Teri fought her next and lost. (I think it was also 3-2.) So, Teri got second and I got third.