We did it! Our last hurdle was performing for all of our friends and family at our Black Belt Gala 2016. I performed Nijushi with my friend and training partner Julian (he went for his black belt this time around!), and we did a tandem board break on our forearms (a real crowd-pleaser). As soon as we were finished, Julian turned to me with a high-five, "We're done! We're finally done!" So very proud of him for achieving his first goal on his black belt journey. He sprained his ankle during the final part of our test, and he's been jonesing to get back on the mat ever since. Can't say I don't know the feeling!
I wanted to perform Nijushi because the very first time I attended an SMA Black Belt Gala, I was still a kickboxer. I saw Sensei Kassandra Lee perform Nijushi and I was utterly in awe. I had never seen anything so fierce and beautiful at the same time. So, performing Nijushi at my 1st degree promotion was my small tribute to her for inspiring me to head down the path to black belt those years ago. I'll never perform it with the grace she brings to it, but I think she would be proud of my intensity. (I swear I will keep working on the details!)
There were plenty of tears shed at our gala as everyone shared a quick speech to accept their promotions. When Julian gave me a shout-out in his speech, I'd be lying if I said I didn't burst into tears. What an awesome celebration for a year's worth of hard work, pain, and perseverance.
So, like I asked my comrades in our little Facebook group: "When do we start up for next year's training?!" I, for one, can't wait. I won't be testing, but I'll be right along for the ride to support and motivate everyone who will be pushing through for the next level.