Once More Through the Ringer


Once More Through the Ringer

By: Dale Norfolk Black Belt , elementalkickboxing, martialartsleeds

Once More Through the Ringer

“Almost anything difficult, any challenge takes time, patience, and hard work.” – (Arnold Schwarzenegger1, actor, film producer, businessman, former bodybuilder2 and politician3)

Challenge, challenge is a funny thing, it’s something that people actively move toward and it’s also something that people fear and keenly try to avoid. Even if that thing is a progression, even if that thing is something you are actively or subconsciously working toward.

It was in this exact spot I found myself toward the beginning of April this year.

Only seven months earlier, I had returned to physical training, following our collective enforced game of ‘Remain Indoors4’ since 2019.

I found it good to begin to test my abilities and what I could achieve, what limits I could push myself to and I had always been a sucker for going to the gym. But this challenge was something I had not anticipated.

Was I actually going to start training and grade for my second dan, was it possible? I always like to think and actively live by the idea that ‘If you can do it once, that’s luck. If you can repeat the feat, that’s skill or consistency’

So, it was under this motto I began training. I did not know what was and advantage, I’d been through my first dan and that was intense, physically and mentally. But could I do it again and with additional scrutiny.

As some of you may know, grading for any of the teaching levels or dan grades is about not just being able to meet certain physical criteria but it is about being able to teach what you have learnt to people on their own journeys.

Therefore, I broke this down, I chopped up the grading into distinct pieces and graded them in my mind.

Teaching – I would need to teach two classes to different groups of students (beginners and intermediate grades)

Kata5 – this would need to be written and performed

Physical training – to be able to last through technique, body conditioning6, kata, sparring as part of the grading.

For me I like to be able to plan, I like to be able to take each element and understand what I would need to do. I knew the physical element would come and I would continue doing classes and gym work and just to hedge my bets, took up some personal training7 (PT) classes with Ryan to build stamina and flexibility.

I would need to research how I would theme my teaching element, so not only could I teach the classes I was due, but I could bring in some elements that were unique to me and work on the strengths of my knowledge.

Finally, I would need to write a kata, fifty moves that needed to be performed back-to-back and written by me, which would not only demonstrate good technique, but would showcase the things that would be expected.

As with the quote that began this blog, this takes time and patience, each day making small increases in what I was going to do, it involved research and trips to the park to practice kata. It needed me to complete my gym work and classes without fail.

Before I knew it, I had written my kata, I had completed my teaching and I was ready for the practical element.

As always with these things, this is at its heart a solo exercise and partly collaborative. I had other people grading with me and for me I wanted to know how they were preparing, what they were doing, which gave me my own markers on my own progress.

Grading for my first dan we have been a tight group of all guys and we shared a WhatsApp group and did regular check ins, a shared pain as it would be. This time it was a more fragmented approach with a more diverse group of participants, three that weren’t even adults yet, but on the day showed they were as good, if not better than those older than them. One sure fire pass, as his job and possibly life depended on it and last by certainly not least our resident sawbones, who seemed to be the most nervous of us all.

We had people supporting the grading, or in my mind in some ways, ringers8 to give us a good kicking at some stage. We even had a club member, with such a need to test himself he was to complete the grading but not actually be receiving a dan belt, which is real challenge for any of you fancying it.

The experience itself was equal parts exhausting, draining, rewarding and character building. There were small amounts of blood and injury, there was buckets of sweat and on occasion some other less savoury fluids. All in the name of challenge and triumph.

There are certain truths that I learned from this grading, some I had forgotten or learned differently this time:

- You can never have enough water

- It will always be as hard as you think it will be

- 5 hours is the longest time in the world

- Protein gel is not for human consumption (especially not warm)

- You can never quite prepare enough

- Gym work helps massively

- Don’t ever, no matter how clever you think you are, pick a fight with Ed

- Being body conditioned by Dave and James is just as terrible as you would imagine it to be.

But make no mistake when it is over and you are told you have passed and you hand over your belt for it to be embroidered, that is the best feeling you can get. You have trained for the challenge you have been patient; you have done the hard work and the reward feels amazing.