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The Dan exam poem

This poem is dedicated to all who took 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 and I read it at the end of a Dan exam. 

I dedicate this poem to all those students, no matter where they are, who have walked down this road. 

"THE GRADING"

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.