I got my green belt! As usual, it was not the way I had planned to get through the test. As usual, it was a little bit better than the last test.
After a recent injury outside of the dojo my pain has been at a constant level ten. Any extra pain at this point and I am in tears from the agony. This has an enormous emotional impact. But this post is about good news, so I digress.
The dojo is packed on testing day. People from different classes I don't usually get to see are saying hello and making room to line up beside one another, and I am greeting them, too. Well aware that my pain level is through the roof I recognize that I will have to be very careful. However, Sensei has a way of knowing the difference between somebody who is going gently because they're suffering and someone who is, as he puts it, "dogging it." I am going to have to push myself, but if I'm being honest with myself I need to own up to my limits. The test is two hours long and I am determined to complete it.
The whole reason I practice karate is because I refuse to give up just because of my disability. Furthermore, I refuse to be a victim of violence for seeming an easy target on my crutches or for being transgender in unfriendly territory. Therefore, when I am perfectly safe and surrounded by love, with God beside me as I perceive God, it is a time to follow my dream of practicing karate. I am in a very good position to make myself proud by demonstrating that I am stronger, smarter, and tougher than I was when I got my last belt.
I love my fellow students, maybe even a little bit beyond reason, since I know little about them outside of our school. In a perfectly safe environment such as this it is easy to love openly until my heart is so full that there is little room to feel despair over the pain. So we line up, and I get ready. I say a small prayer for each of us in the dojo where I ask for safety, diligence, and understanding, with open minds to receive the guidance of our Sensei.
For the previous few weeks I had been on the sofa because my legs just couldn't hold me and the pain was too exhausting. I had to take karate easily and everything else very lightly. My life was work, sleep, and karate. I could not cook meals, provide self care, shop for groceries, or do anything independently. The only things I allowed myself to do were work and practice, both at attenuated paces. The only reason I even allowed that much was because being around people is very good for mental health, and the isolation of EDS is something traumatic to go through again and again, unpredictably, forever. Therefore, in some instances I am better off forcing myself to endure the pain because I may get some relief emotionally, which can in turn contribute to my physical wellness.
As expected, less than half way through my legs give out. They are weak and are not performing the moves that I'm asking them to perform. The Senpai who is testing me has a look on his face that shows me he cares and respects my challenges, and that he feels helpless against them much like I do. As we're talking my head becomes foggy, I can no longer complete a sentence, and I start to fall over. He suggests adapting the test to a verbal exchange, where I tell him how I would respond to this or that attack. I went through a brain fog and it was hard to think or speak, but we got through it together, and I felt a little bit stronger. At that moment I realized that as long as I don't give up, I will never be alone. I lt finally hit me that I have managed to develop my character into a person that other people want to be around, that I have the ability to connect with others at the heart, and that I can use those connections to help myself as well as them.
Eventually the fog overcomes and I am stumbling. I can neither think nor see straight. I have a decision to make: go on, or go sit down. But why not both? After all, I am a wheelchair and walking aid user outside of the dojo, I have done my honest and absolute best, I am well educated and experienced disabilities advocate; here I am facing my own disability at an activity that I wish to accomplish. My goal is the belt and my plan is not to give up for any reason. So I sit down, have some water, and try to think about how I can continue. While I sit my vision returns. I decide to continue with just my upper body because that is what is working right now. Instead of working with a partner I remain seated on a stack of gym mats and fight with the nearby punching bag. I think I'm winning! I feel good, I can see that the people around me feel good, too. We are all smiling, sweaty and satisfied, hopeful and ready to refocus. I finish the class this way and Sensei says that we all did very well and he is proud that nobody gave up. I take the liberty of assuming that his message about not giving up is meant for me to hear. I let it soak in. Not long after he calls me to the front I take a bit of extra time to stand up on my wobbly legs and receive my belt.
Now I am an intermediate karateka.