Wow, it's been a while, and there have been a couple of milestones.
On June 14, I was in Virginia for my parents' 60th wedding anniversary, a real achievement. They were tired--heck, they're 88 and 89--so we just had a quiet dinner out. Their faculties are in decline--things like short-term memory and staying on task are difficult--but they're living on their own (with lots of help from my brother, who lives near them), they're enjoying life despite some ailments, and it was great to celebrate their big day with them.
Today I attended the black belt test of two of my friends. Neither passed. They were both disappointed of course.
A brief explanation may be necessary here. My school (a large one in several eastern U.S. states) once was a Shotokan karate school, but it has since morphed into a mixed martial arts school. I just learned this week the school is actually dropping the gi top (there will still be a uniform, but the top won't be a gi). It has retained some elements of karate, such as belts and a big test for the black belt. We're tested for strength (men 50 and older must do 50 pushups in good form, and 50 situps in a minute); for form and power on punches and kicks; for knowledge, form and speed in self-defense moves from various grabs; for kickboxing skill, and grappling skill.
My friend the Hulk was being tested for grappling. Hulk is, as you might guess by the name, incredibly strong; he's in his late 50s and in amazing shape. From what I understand, he didn't pass grappling because he relied on his strength, and didn't demonstrate enough knowledge of grappling technique. He was pretty blue about it.
My friend Larry of the family that fights together, in his late 40s (he gets to do even more pushups and situps in the test) did well on the punches and kicks, but he said was so focused on form in his self-defense routines that he wasn't fast enough, according to the senseis judging him.
It's always easier to see as an outsider that a set-back can be a learning experience; it's much harder to feel that optimistic when the set-back happened to you. Still, I have confidence my friends will join me in September, when I hope to test again.
I have tested twice; what I have left is the pushups and situps (you always have those) and grappling, the test in which I got hurt.