Congratulations to L, our newest (and first!) Shodan!
Thankfully, since L was the trailblazer, I got a nice preview of what's likely to be on my plate in another year or two. What he was actually asked to do didn't look to terribly scary (for the most part) - however the way he did it was damned intimidating.
L does great kata. He's incredibly fast and powerful. He puts every ounce of his energy into every move, and it really shows. Of course, it also caused him problems. His breathing is not terrific. He's been working on it hard, and it's much, much better, but he's still putting out too much energy for the way he breathes. He had to take at least a quick break after every kata to recover, and twice left the mat to get some water and stretch. (Though the stretching was because he pulled a hamstring doing the jump-kick in Chinto.) None of the breaks was more than a minute or two, so not too bad. Six months ago, he was having trouble getting through more than five or six of the empty hand kata before completely pooping out, simply because he didn't breathe enough.
Sanchin was impressive and a bit scary. Sensei borrowed four TKD blackbelts and had them test the kata ("Let him know he's being hit"). There were no boards or bos broken on him, but he took a lot of solid thumping on torso, arms, and legs. Afterwards Sensei called across to K and I (the two adult san-kyus) "I won't go easier on the ladies!" As long as they don't go harder, I think I'll survive - but I doubt I'll enjoy it much. My friends' opinions to the contrary, I'm not that much of a masochist. L stripped to the waist for Sanchin. We'll have to do the same, except that we're allowed a sports bra. Yay - nobody wants to see me do full-frontal nudity, trust me. Everybody still gets to see my stretch marks, but if I keep losing weight/getting in shape at the rate I have been, the muscles underneath won't be anything to sneeze at by then.
Self-defense was just the nine presets - no freeform, which surprised me. Four of us (three TKD blackbelts and me) took turns being the attacker. Sensei wanted me in the line-up because preset #4 involves a takedown with a kick to the knee, and he wanted someone who knew it was coming and wouldn't get their knee busted. I was also called up for #9, but had to trade with one of the guys, because #9 has an upper chest strike, and L flinched rather than actually hit me in the breasts. Which caused a general chuckle.
There was no kumite, which surprised me. Every test up to black has kata, kumite, and a combined technique/vocabulary test with Sensei calling out instructions in Japanese, and the testee having to decipher them and do what they're told (though you will not fail for asking him to repeat in English). The knowledge portion is usually done verbally, but for black you have to write three essays: What is karate to you? In your opinion what is a black belt? In your opinion what is a sensei? I'll be working on these over the next year. I'll likely post them here when I've got satisfactory first drafts, looking for feedback.
Overall, I think Sensei's comment before the test, that the Brown Belt test was going to be physically harder is probably accurate. I don't have to get pummelled through Sanchin, but I will have kumite and breaking, which I think will make up the difference.
Breaking for brown, btw, includes punching through a 12"x 10" board, breaking a haydite (light concrete) with a hand technique of my choice, and punching out a candle with each hand. Punching the board isn't a problem, but does anyone have any suggestions on the others? The haydite makes me nervous, though stomping one for green was no problem. I'm thinking about using a tetsui for it. Punching out candles is likely to be the biggest problem though. Even L had problems with that way back when, and while my precision is as good as his, I lack his speed and snap.
I know all the information I need for brown. Now it's a matter of getting the techniques right. And then it's on to prepping for what L just completed.
Congratulations Sensei Johnson!