Go Dan Test
It was dark, hot, humid, and silent. The only sound was the chirping of the birds outside of the dojo. I was sweating and I was exhausted. As I sit in Sieza (for part 3 of our exam), in a corner of the Dojo, I was breathing in and out to calm my nerves in preparation to receive the next part of the Go Dan test. I was breathing hard because WS and I had just finished performing the Kata portion of the Go Dan test, which was part 2 of the test, part one being a written essay on two ideas of martial arts and Budo.
Now, this in itself is a monumental feat. The Kata are a set of specific movements that must be performed with precision. The movements challenge your mental and physical ability. The kata are like a real fight, they present the difference between life and death. If your movements are not precise, you will face death. I practiced and refined this part of the test for the better part of a year and a half. However, the reality is that the ability to accomplish these movements was not developed over a short period. It has taken over 15 years of hard training for me to develop the skill to even be able to challenge myself to achieve this level of rank. However, I had an understanding, even confidence, in my ability to successfully defeat my attacker with my skill of Taijutsu.
The third part of the test…the Sakki or “killer instinct” part of the test is what is almost impossible to practice. This leads me back to why I was sitting in the corner of the dojo. I was clearing my mind, reflecting on the kata that I had just performed as well as preparing my mind for what was to come next.
After, what seemed to be an eternity, Sensei silently walked back onto the mats of the dojo from his sitting room, pulled out a Katana, and began the second part of the test. I moved to the center of the mats, still in Seiza, turned my back to Sensei, who stood above me with a live blade ready to cut at the back of my head at his will. I have no words to accurately and completely describe the next few minutes. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, removed my fears, tightened my Tan-Den, and waited.
It was still dark, hot, humid, and silent: And then Sensei cut to the back of my head with complete silence and power. Sometime during his cut, I felt something in my gut telling me that I was in danger, the hair on my neck started to stand and my body is screaming at me “you must move” NOW. At that moment my body moved. I rolled out of the way of his cut. The realization hit me, but I did not know what happened. I could not comprehend that I had avoided his cut without seeing, knowing, or hearing him cut to the back of my head. I looked up at him and he nodded his head in acknowledgment that I had moved without being cut. I was in total disbelief. This is because I did not make a conscious effort to roll out of the way, I just did it. I moved in total Mu or the void.
Then, as I was thinking through what had happened; I sat and watched WS perform what I had just accomplished. I understood what was going to happen. As Sensei cut in silence, WS moved out of the way of his cut. He too had passed. However, to watch him perform, was like watching a miracle happen. I was thinking how did he do it, how did he know when to move? The answer is, I do not know. What I do know, that it is a product of training hard for many years. It is an understanding of your opponent, developing the strength, the will, and skill to kill, more importantly and understanding of yourself. This is the way of the warrior. This killer instinct is within all of us. It is a matter of harnessing and controlling that instinct. This is something that increases overtime with continued training and life experience. What made the great warriors of old was their ability to understand this killer principle…the sixth sense if you will. This is what kept them safe and strong.
Throughout my future years of training I will continue to explore what happened that morning of the Go Dan test. I will work to grow and refine my martial skills. I will work to grow my mental strength and spiritual understanding. This is all in the hope to further understand what it means to be able to avoid the silent unforgiving attacker. I am so blessed to be around such wonderful training partners and such an awesome dojo!