The Dan Exam

"The Test".     

A black belt grading is always a very special event. Those students who have reached this point in their training can truly appreciate the high level of dedication and self sacrifice that is necessary in order to take the test, let alone pass it. I wrote this poem some years ago, I dedicate it to all those students, no matter where they are, who have walked down this road. 


The test would last just hours

Though their training spanned the years,

Could those who watched appreciate

Their hope - their pride - their fears,

To test their bodies and their minds

For hours they must drill,

Knowing that the sweat that flows

Is governed by their will,

Success is what their training breeds

It is written in their creed,

And memories of their classes past

Are dreams on which they feed,

The seconds tick, the minutes pass

The hours seem like years,

Their Sensei is not satisfied

"Again" rings in their ears,

Basics now - their legs cry out

Each step a painful stance,

Kata next -"mo ichi do"

As if they're in a trance,

Some glance at those they struggle with

Beneath this summer sun,

Their look it says - without your help

I never could have won,

The rank and title that they seek

They claim through years of strife,

More than friends they're bonded now

For all their earthly life,

For Shotokan is what they do

Karate is their art,

The lessons that their Sensei taught

Are planted in their heart,

He asked - they gave - a fair exchange

He is a master of this cast,

Who promised them a memory

For all their life to last,

And when their gradings over

A sweet silence fills the air,

Four mute walls a testament

To what they had to bear,

The lights are off the door is locked

To open once again,

When others seek to follow them

And walk this road of pain,

Now age may dull their memory

Their youth God will take back,

But forever they are Sempai's now

Who have earned their belt of black.