“A Good Day to Die”
by James Nielson
“Today is a good day to die”. This
thought went through my head the morning of my san-kyu test. This
may sound a bit extreme but I also heard Sensei Sandhu make a similar
statement during the testing. He explained that every decision is
a matter of life or death.
Going into the test I knew that it was not going to
be a “cake walk”. The senior students of the Gi-Yu
dojo possess a certain quality that I believe is lacking in many
schools. That quality is hard to describe but what it boils down
to is confidence. After the test I realized where that quality is
Performing the required techniques for my level was
only the first challenge. Bad habits still surface when I moved
and nothing I did escaped the view of the members of the testing
board. Each mistake I made seemed to be amplified under their
watchful eyes. This was the most stressful part of the test for
me. The Gi-Yu dojo has many excellent teachers and they have
offered their guidance countless times. I could only blame myself
if I failed. The test reinforced this understanding in me.
Randori was next. I looked forward to this
part of the test. As a police officer, I have on occasion had to
use physical force to subdue aggressors. The saying “You
don’t get paid to lose” comes to my mind. Each round
of randori opened my eyes a little further. I knew going
into it I was going to get hit and possibly suffer injuries. I
did. To me this was another life and death battle and I would
fight through the pain and injury to win.
My intention was not to survive the encounter.
I wanted to defeat my opponent or die trying. With that in mind,
I was struck with training weapons many times by what I am sure would
be lethal blows. But I also know that lethal blows do not always
end a fight immediately. I say this because many people think
that an injury will keep them from completing the task at hand.
Days after the test, I still feel the pain of a yari strike to my right
foot. I hardly noticed this injury during the randori and I was
not about to let it interfere with my fight.
Some schools do not believe in randori. Even
in law enforcement, training that requires physical contact is going by
the wayside. Generally this is due to law suits and the fear that
an employee will be injured and unable to work. This is
unfortunate. You learn many things about yourself when you face a
threat that has the potential of harming you, even in a training
environment. There are people out there that may never have to
defend themselves, their family, their community or their
country. If you are the person responsible either by job and/ or
moral obligation to protect, I recommend this type of training.
Sensei Sandhu asked me to write this article giving
my impression on the test. I will sum it up by saying this:
Before the test, I had heard many times that in this school you had to
earn your rank. After the test I realized that it was worth