I completely freaked out on the evening after my weapons grading!I knew I’d mucked up, I’d done only one Tai-Gi correctly, my knees went and I did my knife taking as still as possible.

The only things I knew I’d done right were my Jo and bokken work, I was sure I’d fail. I spent pretty much all of Thursday thinking of ways to raise my game on Friday. That’s what it had become, a game, the game. I had to be better, be my best, my very best.

Friday morning. I was dreading it, terrified. I get like that. Absolutely calm before an exam until the last five minutes.

I was called up with the two other juniors and we spread out. Ukes were called and I got Callum, I could not have asked for a better first uke.

First technique was called and it was like all my energy burst out at once. I was moving all cylinders firing, at full Speed.

I took a glance around whilst Callum was getting up. Loads of people were watching us, we were moving faster than the other two couples. ‘Well that explains why I’m tired’ I thought. At one point I think I stopped breathing, probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, but ‘c’est la vie’ hey?

When sensei called for fresh ukes Sim jumped right up and Callum heaved down with a sigh of evident relief. Sensei called the first technique. Sankyo. My heart sank. If there was one technique I could not do on Sim that was it, but onward and, I think, it worked!

My call-up finished and I sat down with a very large bottle of water, breathing the heaviest I ever have. I watched the rest of the call-ups far too critically, saying to myself ‘I should’ve done that’ or ‘I hope I didn’t put that foot there’.

Then it came. Randori kokio. I was called; I was allowed not to kneel because my knees were beginning to hurt.

I think that I got the best group of ukes I could have asked for.

Agjme. In a whirlwind of motion I was charged. I was charged too, my arms outstretched like battering rams: they worked. After that I don’t remember what happened until Justin grabbed my shoulders and I had to do the only thing I’d managed to avoid. A forward drop. As I fell, I felt my knees crunch and I think all my ukes heard them because my Randori was over.

I came off, took some pain killers and sat to watch the rest. I egged people on and cheered but mostly just drank as much water as I could.

Certificates time

All of us, hopeful, weary and craving knelt there, wishing for our name’s to be called.

Mine was called; I got up and limped over to the panel. Knelt, rayed, received my certificate, rose, turned and grinned.

Eleanor Worsley

September 2005

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