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Discovering Your Potential

Last week was intense. It was yet another week where I learned about what I’m made out of, to my pleasant surprise. When I embarked on this challenge last April, I had no idea what I could realistically expect of myself. A few years ago I ran a few days a week with Eileen while she was training for her black belt, and I learned that summer that I respond very well to consistent training. But how would that translate to running, plus kicking, plus forms, plus upper body strength, plus flexibility, plus grappling technique? And how would all of that tie in to my existing schedule as a productive member of society — as a freelance web developer, life partner, cat caretaker? I have mad respect for all of the parents who train for their black belts, because I’m certainly not responsible for the welfare of any small humans, and half the time I feel only marginally capable as an adult.

So, last week, I decided that not only would I attend the black belt candidate camp, but I’d also bill a full week of freelance hours while I was at it. My mantra was #icanadult.

You know what? I did it! Jordan and I didn’t eat particularly well that week, and the house was a fine mess, but I dialed in my focus, brought my laptop to candidate camp to squeeze in an hour of work during lunch breaks, and managed to bust out some good training and some good programming.

Highlights from this week include:

  • My best mile time ever! Tres partnered me with a super fast teenage candidate named Amit, and we clocked a 7:34 on the Freestyle loop, which includes two annoying hills. Thanks, Amit!
  • Learned how to use MailChimp template codes for custom e-newsletter templates, and also figured out how to use list segments.
  • I did my first ever unassisted chin-up. FIRST. CHIN-UP. EVER. GUYS. This is definitely a two-gif accomplishment:

First, I was like, “Who’s got two thumbs and can TOTALLY do an unassisted chinup? …Me? Maybe??”


Then, I did an honest-to-god unassisted chin-up! And I asked at least three people if it really happened. It’s a good thing they were watching or else I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • I learned more about animating SVG vector graphics with Javascript, which should streamline the effects for this one particularly fun project I’m working on this summer.
  • I passed 8/10 of my physical requirements, back-to-back, in an unexpected mid-test progress check. However, I’m going to caveat the hell out of that statement, because the two requirements I failed were chin-ups and the mile. I missed my mile by one second. Yep. I ran an 8:01 mile literally two days after my fastest ever at 7:34. And even though I failed my chin-ups by only getting one out of the five that are required, I’m too pumped about getting that first one to beat myself up about it too much.
  • Oh, and I completed my checklisting! One hundred and eleven separate checks covering individual aspects of all parts of our training. Woot woot!

Who’s got two thumbs and finished checklisting today?! THIS GIRL!!! #blackbelt #intention2015 😎😱🙌

A photo posted by Elaine VDW (@elainevdw) on

I wish I had more space here to talk a little bit about the two seminars that bookended candidate camp — Neal Fincher’s krav maga and self defense seminar on Monday, and Rick Reeves’s MMA and sparring seminar on Friday — or my first-ever spinning class on Saturday, but I’m already the most long-winded candidate in my weekly journals. Suffice to say, they were exhausting and exhilarating, and each of our expert instructors at the seminars were simultaneously engaging, fun… and a little bit terrifying! Which is kind of exactly what I want to be when I grow up.

This week starts the next phase of training, which is the final push towards each of our individual physical requirement tests. (The most we test on at once is two in one day, I think; not all at once like we did last week.) And, of course, the pre-test is July 18, where we perform all of the techniques we spent the last two months checklisting on. I’m feeling pretty pumped for it after last week! Bring it on!!

4 thoughts on “Discovering Your Potential

  1. We check-listed our techniques at the end of our Academy Defensive Tactics class. I always had kind of a sour taste in my mouth about that stuff when it comes to personal combat. At the end of our training, the people that could fight at the beginning of it were still the people that could fight. The people that couldn’t fight at the beginning of it were still the people that couldn’t fight.

    I guess the major difference is that you’re program is much longer in overall time period, so there is a lot of room for growth over that time. And I guess you really are just looking to become a better version of yourself.

    There’s that Bruce Lee saying, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

    Maybe I’m missing the point of the checklists though?

    1. I definitely got better at everything I checklisted on. Different folks have different challenges with the techniques. Like power for punches, balance for kicks. Mine was probably remembering strings of movements well enough to do them powerfully. If you fail a check enough times, you go and figure it out until you do it right.

      I think I improved the most on the self defense techniques, which I could never remember before. I may or may not do them “right,” but I do something, which is the point of self defense I guess! Of course, our program assumes that we will hopefully never be attacked, so there’s no way to tell how effective each of us would be on the street. My best hope isn’t that I’d pull out some crazy Bruce Lee move if I got mugged — I mostly just hope that I don’t freeze like a deer in headlights. And also that I don’t ever get mugged!

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