Photos from my black belt test

As promised!

Bat Sai (Bassai)


Knife kata (third or fourth “Death”)



Don Kwan (2-person kata)


Self-defense throw


Lock, after a throw


Sparring (and staying) on the mat


Three years ago . . . two days ago.

Has it really been three years?!

Yep. It was three years ago today that I tore my the ACL in my left knee during my exam for 2nd kyup (brown belt).   In my head, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.  But looking at my last update more than a year and half ago, I realize how far I’ve come.

The knee is good.

Very good, in fact.  It stands up to everything that I ask of it.  It’s not perfect, mind you.  I have to wear a neoprene wrap that’s similar to those little patellar braces you see so many people wearing these days.  It’s not ideal, but with the wrap on I hardly feel that bursitis that dogged me for so long, even when I practice karate.

And, boy, have I been practicing karate.  Which brings me to . . .

. . . two days ago

I earned my black belt!

It probably shouldn’t have taken three years to get there after the injury.  But the bursitis really dogged me as did the recurring shoulder pain, which can still be a problem.  I had to abandon Bo kata and stay away from any of the work with bokken that my school does because of my shoulders.   But I stuck with it.  I figured out what worked and what didn’t with my knee (and my shoulders, too).  I kept training on it until I started not just to trust the knee but to feel very natural on it.  And then I trained very hard over the past four months, during which time the knee was often the least of my troubles as I gained a collection of bumps, bruises, cuts, and scrapes everywhere else on my body.

As the big day approached my main worry was being nervous for the test and forgetting parts of my material (which includes being ready to perform 20 one-steps, 20 self-defense throws with some variations, 20 defenses against knife strikes, at least one of 15 single-person kata, and 2 or more of 6 two-person kata).  The knee was never a concern.  And, thankfully, my brain was merciful and allowed me to focus and even really enjoy the entire exam.

So here’s me, my fellow candidates, and our master instructors on test day.

I’m second from the right, looking tired and suddenly relaxed.

I’ll post some more pictures as they turn up.  

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a happy ending to this ACL story and get ready for some real learning about karate.