Chris Cappellone Kohai

After last months Black Gi Grading I asked the students that attempted the Black Gi Grading to write down their thoughts and provided some questions to stimulate their minds after the aftermath of the torrid event.

This is what Kohai Chris had to say.

The Black Gi Grading – Chris Cappellone

What sort of special training did you undertake to prepare for the Black Gi Grading?

Training for the Black Gi Grading was something we were informed by Shihan Jamie would help us, but by no means get us through. It is a grading that we were told ‘you cannot prepare for’. When you haven’t seen one of these grading in the flesh (like myself, Mark and Michelle Sempai hadn’t), it is very easy to get caught up in the magnitude because it is that fear of the unknown. Although obviously physical training and fitness is absolutely critical, there is a large side, more like a majority of the preparation, which is more so mental.

Physical training entailed sprinting, loads of pad work, Bunkai and Kihon. Training really needed to have high work rates, with the aim of reducing the rest and recovery periods in between. So pad sessions and sparring helped in this regard as well as conditioning training. When completing any of these, we would have a set work rate time, and a set rest time. Then every week, increase the work period whilst also decreasing the rest period. The biggest improvement in fitness was especially noticed after a few weeks of short sprint training.

Mentally however, the lead up was tougher than any of the sessions we completed. It is the fear, the doubt, the thought of failure and the unknown which really makes you question your abilities and very thing you have ever done, in karate and life in general. It is extremely difficult to convince yourself that all will be okay, when you know (or dont know) what you are up against. Conversations with Shihan and Sensei inspired and aided me to push, on as well as the support of my brother, Michelle Sempai and family.

Music played a massive role in my preparation, just finding that song which had more than bass and heavy metal, but with lyrics that inspire. Having said that though, there is only so much in music that can help you. So there were a few nights of google searching inspirational quotes and videos. I had a print of these quotes and would read them before bed most nights.

These were my two favourites:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do” – Eleanor
Roosevelt

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear” – Rosa Parks

The first of these quotes I could really relate to. The Black Gi Grading was always something I felt I couldn’t do, so when I found this quote it made me realise that the fear and doubt associated with the grading was reason to actually do it. It sounds like it was cut and dry, but there is so much more to it that is difficult to express. There are I guess, massive lapses of confidence and questioning of one’s self throughout the lead up to the grading, moments where you feel like “yep I can do this” and then later that same day, or even hour “what am I doing, I cant do what they have done”. It is a huge mental battle, but one which puts so much of life into perspective.

black-gi-hr-0510

Images provided by Cookoo Design & Photography

 

What were you feeling the morning of the Black Gi Grading?

 

The morning of the Black Gi Grading was horrible. This massive day had finally arrived and the old ‘butterflies in the stomach’ could only be described as more of swarm of wasps. It all seems like a blur. It was kind of a relief for the Saturday morning to finally be there. I just threw on a few psych up beats and read a few quotes and really just tried to tell myself that this was it. It wasn’t a good feeling at all, but really, it’s all worth it when you’re done and dusted.

Was there any point throughout the grading that you did not think you could make it and what allowed you to find the strength to get through?

black-gi-hr-0490There were so many points during the grading that I questioned whether I was going to be able to finish. The tile break was probably the point when I was most doubtful. I knew I had to break the tiles, but the thought of failing this, which would be the end of my grading, was something that was tough to get my head around. I had never done anything of the sought, didn’t know how to go about it, and knew I had to find something. I remember standing there looking down at the tiles closing my eyes and running through some quotes in my head. Its corny, but I actually recited a quote from the movie the matrix. It was something I felt really applied to myself as a person and I stood there closed my eyes and the little voice in my head went “you have to let it all go, fear, doubt and disbelief, free your mind”. I opened my eyes pretty much as my hand was almost at the tiles I think, I’m not exactly certain, and they smashed. I couldn’t believe it. I actually had a little smile to myself and thought, I can do this, I can finish this grading. It was at this point where I really felt that I could make it happen.

How would you describe how you were feeling when the Black Gi Grading was finished?

At the end of the grading I was emotional to say the least. I remember standing, listening to Hanshi Marty’s speech, with tears making there way to the surface. I never thought I would actually be there. And when Shihan Jamie presented me with the Black Gi top, it was a feeling of disbelief, but actually a good disbelief! I had actually achieved this ‘thing’ that I had on so many occasions thought I couldn’t. It is really hard to describe. You can succeed in so many things in life, but as I have come to realise after doing this grading, nothing will ever compare or relate it. The Black Gi Grading will be a day which will never be forgotten.

What advice would you give to someone that was going to attempt the Black Gi Grading in the future?

I guess the first thing would be to say that you just have to do it! I had never thought 3 years ago when I started karate, that I’d get to yellow belt, let alone be wearing a black gi. I think my piece of advice would be just to try and tell yourself that it has to be done. It is very easy to start to question why? Why am I doing this, why am I freaking out, and all of the what ifs? Im not saying I didn’t, because all of those thoughts went through my head every day. It’s just a very personal quest I suppose. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the support and belief of Shihan, Sensei and all of the Sempai.

So another piece of advice is to realise that although you will be up against this massive force of black, they want you to succeed just as much as yourself or anyone else. I think that constant discussions about the grading helped in realising the road ahead. I know I had countless chats with my brother over a coffee about the black gi, and all of the associated thoughts and fears that came with it in the lead up. If I didn’t have him to chat to I guess things would be a lot different. So I suppose, when you look at it, you are constantly learning by seeking advice from others. Just like anything realIy, its a matter of constant reflection and analysis of the situation, because, sometimes it might be something trivial that someone says, but becomes a cornerstone in the way you operate. It is hands down the mental battle which is most difficult to grasp in preparation for the grading, so I guess you could say you need to mentally train just as much as you physically train. I found that through discussion, I was able to realise a lot about myself, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, because it aids you to understand yourself as a person and where you want to be or what you want to change.

How would you describe the way the Black Gi Grading has changed you?

It is still sinking in really. I cant believe that the first Monday training after the grading I could actually wear a black gi and although it was amazing, it seemed very strange. The grading has undoubtedly changed me. I’m sure there will be further realisations as time goes on, but I suppose the biggest discovery is one of overcoming the force of anxiety, fear and stress at the thought of such a task. When I look back, I actually can’t believe that it is all over. I remember the constant feelings and the gut-wrenching notions of facing a dojo full of unbelievable martial artists. And so the realisation is that those feelings were probably the worst I have ever felt to date in my life, so what then is really ever going to be a problem. My outlook on work, uni and life in general has changed or matured dramatically. It is difficult to fully describe the way the grading has changed me, because it isn’t a tangible thing, and with time, I will undoubtedly reflect and realise even more changes. Karate has really changed me into someone I never thought I could have been. I had really started over the last year or so to notice significant changes in my personality after I saw some old photos, and the black gi cemented these transformations I guess. Aspects of fear, doubt, failure and disbelief were all things I struggled to come to grips with. But now after finishing the black gi grading, you begin to realise that nothing really matters and all of those feelings can’t stop you from doing something, its just a matter of acceptance and doing that ‘thing’ despite those apprehensions and feelings. And no matter what – you survive. It sounds arrogant and cocky in some respects, but you start to believe in yourself, which is something I never really did.

black-gi_0846-54

Finding Courage with Karate

There is a well known saying about Courage and Fear:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to enter into the unknown despite it”.

In this post we will look at the purpose of Karate to learning self-defence and how Karate can be used as the tool required to build our self-confidence and feeling of safety.

Fear is the largest contributor to failure. In most cases, fear stops a person from undertaking a task before they have even begun. This could be because they do not have the required self-confidence in their own ability which leads to the fear that they will fail. One lesson that life has continued to teach us is that each person has the ability to undertake any task that they set their mind to.

So what is fear and how do we overcome fear?

Fear can be defined as an emotion that we feel when placed in a situation that we are inexperienced to deal with, not physically able to complete or falls outside our comfort zone. Fear leads to a person giving up that task or failing to complete it. if a person underakes a task and fails at it, they they have shown courage and in order to complete the task the next time they may require more physical or mental training. If the person gives in they they have shown a lack of courage.

To challenge a fear we need courage. Courage is the quality of spirit required by a person to overcome the fear that is blocking them from achieving their purpose. So whether a person aims to climb a mountain, start a business or raise a family, we substantially increase our ability to achieve at our purpose if we are able to summon the courage to challenge our fears.

Karate gives us courage by challenging our comfort zone.

In Karate we are taught the tolls required to defend ourselves so that others cannot take from us what we have worked so hard to achieve. Karate also teaches us how to challenge ourselves and how we can summon the courage required to achieve other goals we have set in life. One simple model used to show how this works is the Comfort, Stretch and Panic Zones Model.

We live the majority of our lives in our comfort zone. In Karate we constantly strive to train within our stretch zone. The Stretch Zone is where we can apply our learning’s, gain our experience and test our current physical and mental ability. In Karate this may be by sparring an opponent with a higher ability, performing Kata in front of our peers or continuing to work hard even at the point of exhaustion. By undertaking this training our comfort zone is increased and we are more easily able to summon courage to overcome obstacles and subside fear. The Panic Zone is this model is also extremely important. The Panic Zone is an important reason why a student takes up Karate in the first instance. This Panic Zone is the area where we have no control, where outside forces may takes us to a place where we have not chosen to be. This could be in a confrontation with a bully that could escalate into a fight or any other real-life situation that induces fear and panic. In Karate we train with the intent of being in a situation where we need to defend ourselves against real-life challenges. This gives us the result of increasing our comfort zones and pushing the panic zone further away. A well trained Karateka is in their comfort zone in a street fight or confrontation because they have a heightened understanding of the situation, a self-confidence in their mental and physical ability plus they have endless potential to summon the courage required to defend themselves if they are outnumbered or beaten.

Defending against a gang attackMr Miyagi vs. Cobra Kai!

Feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts on this topic or can draw on a situation where you have had to draw upon courage to overcome a real fear in life.