Sensei handed out a bunch of test dates this week. This coming Friday Robbie will be testing for his yellow belt at long last! It's taken him about two years to get this far. It's been terribly frustrating. He's known his stuff for ages (or to quote Sensei "It's never been a matter of what's in his head."), but because his brain knows it, he thinks he doesn't need to practice the same things over and over. His taikyokos (beginner katas) took forever for him to do decently, because his head knew them, but his body didn't, and he would stop after every single move to ponder what came next. Once he got beyond that point, he still wasn't ready, because he wasn't taking the need to concentrate seriously and would switch katas in the middle, or suddenly stop and do something completely different.
One advantage to all this time though is that he knows the patterns cold, even if his execution is still a bit sloppy. On Thursday he ran through Taikyoko 2 with three other kids and turned the wrong way on his first turn (a pretty typical Robbie spaceout as far as we could tell). What had the other students watching with their jaws hanging was that he then (with a faintly puzzled look on his face the whole time) proceeded to do the whole thing perfectly only mirrored right to left. In fact he did it better than usual - possibly because he was having to concentrate not to lose his place. When I talked to him afterwards he hadn't realized he was flipped, just that something felt odd. I told Sensei I'd work him at home to make sure it didn't happen during the test, but Sensei felt (as did I) that this was a pretty good demonstration of how well he knows the kata now.
After Robbie (and one of our child yellow belts) test on Friday, K, our resident doctor and the secondmost senior student is testing a couple of weeks later. Then I test two weeks after her (March 30). We're both up for san-kyu which is purple in our dojo. I'm a bit relieved that K is going first. She's been a green since 2005, while I only tested this summer. I know that barring some drastic change in circumstances I'll be testing for brown before she does - with three kids and being a full-time doctor practice time is short for her - but I feel better doing it for brown, when we'll be close in seniority in purple, rather than testing first at this rank. I'm also glad we're getting more people in purple. Our only san-kyu thus far (K's oldest) was, in my opinion, promoted just a touch early - at that point when he knew his stuff, but it wasn't completely secure yet. Adding in all the new stuff for purple has weakened his grasp on the material for green, and it's showing in a new sense of insecurity on the floor. He's quite hyper-aware that he's the senior student; he wants to live up to his rank. I'm hoping that having others of his rank about will let him loosen up a bit and regain his security.
I'm feeling pretty good about where I stand on the material for the test. My katas are solid, including Tsu Yoi Bo (Power Bo), which is the first weapons kata we learn, and I know the language material cold. My only concern on self-defense is the possibility of blanking on ideas, but I'm probably going to choose those about a week before to make as sure as possible that it doesn't happen. I'll have to chose a couple of sets though to make sure of no repeat from the last test. Only one person (other than Sensei) showed up, and my favorite self-defense moves from a bear hug couldn't be used because my "attacker" was about half my size, and couldn't actually wrap his arms around me. I could conceivably use the preset moves that we're learning for black belt - there are nine in all; we've been taught three. Sensei has said they're acceptable choices, but honestly I'm only really comfortable with one thus far. Eh - I'll come up with something. I only have to do three releases, and I know about a dozen. It's more the open-endedness that bothers me.