I pre-purchased my Post-Grading Bacon on Saturday morning.
"Didn’t you do this before the Moonwalk too?" asked Gareth, "It’s like you’re a dog – you only get a treat for performing tricks."
Too true! The bacon before that was because I finally found a new job. The bacon before that bacon was because I’d turned in my book. But it’s bloody amazing bacon and it must be treated with reverence. Except for Saturday when I was starving and turned the whole lot into a toasty bacon, tomato and avocado sandwich. Hubba hubba.
I was concerned that Grading Day would suck without a bacon-shaped carrot dangling in front of me, but I pulled through!
I broke out my sexy new Official Fancy Trousers. Many times my pals had asked, "Why do you not wear the Trousers?" and I said snootily, "Because I haven’t earned them yet!" But as with the bacon I decided to seize the reward before I’d earned it and see if the universe fell apart. I only wish I’d bought them earlier – sure it looks like you’re storing a picnic lunch in your crotch but the bagginess is makes for free and easy kickin’.
The grading felt different from previous sporty events. With the 5K and Moonwalk I could zone out and fall into a rhythm once I’d crossed the start line – the only thing to remember was put one foot in front of the other. The grading was more like high school exams – so much information crammed into your brain; wondering if you could get away with writing the answers on your arm.
To prevent freak-outs, I broke it all down into chunks: three different belts, six different sections for each belt, then sparring at the end. A total of 19 components. We weren’t allowed to bring anything into the room with us except a bottle of water, so my spreadsheet had to be a mental one – I ticked off each chunk as we went through. Five chunks down, 14 to go! It was much easier to deal with that way. I calculated what percentage of the grading had been completed, percentage remaining; number of tasks cocked up versus tasks successfully executed. Etc etc etc!
I tell you what’s irritating: when you’re spewy with nerves and you can hear someone prattling, "I’m not nervous at all. I’m feeling quite relaxed and calm." Oh reeeeally now! In contrast, one of my mates was convinced she was going to screw up. My heart pinged because she’d worked so hard and there was no logical reason for her not to believe she’d kick arse. So I’d say after each panic, "You can do this dude! I’ve seen you do it a thousand times before."
Just saying those words out loud to someone else helped soothe my nerves. Throughout the four long hours of grading I’d mutter to myself, You have done this a thousand times before. You have done this a thousand times before. It pains me to admit that such cheesy self-talk bollocks was helpful.
Of course there were stuff-ups. The worst segment is like sight reading in piano exams – they yell out a random sequence of kicks or hand techniques and you’ve got to do them on the spot. ARRGH! It’s so hard to stay focused and not totally forget the instruction. I always seemed to be kicking with the wrong leg and doing the wrong punch at the wrong time. It was hard not to feel demoralised for mucking up but I kept up the chatter: That’s just one of 19, calm the hell doon!
I think Orange went the best – it was the hardest one, but by the time we got round to it we’d been going so long that the nerves had eased. For the first time ever I did the Orange set movement in a flowing fashion, without Rain Man-style mutterings!
The sparring turned out okay because I was mercifully grouped with my mates – we’d kicked each other plenty of times before so I didn’t feel scared. Finally I was calm enough to think about the moves and actually throw some, instead of waiting for the blows to rain down. About bloody time.
Finally the grading was over! OVER!
All twelve kickboxing dames gathered wearily before our Great Leader, where he informed us that we had all passed.
ORANGE BELT, BABY!
And then our Leader actually shed a few wee tears, saying he was so proud of us and how much work we’d put in. Aww. It was a tender moment.
I didn’t blub, for once in my overly emotional life. I was too busy feeling euphoric and relieved and stunned. And wishing I hadn’t already eaten that bacon.