I’ve approached this black belt test like I’ve approached most things in my life: First, as an observer when my friends or family tackled the challenge; then eventually as a participant when my turn rolled around. This is classic youngest sibling behavior. Watch and learn, then do. So, even though I haven’t experienced this test firsthand, I wasn’t particularly taken aback when I received Tres’s email last week asking us to bring blindfolds and a life vest, if needed, to Friday’s special workout on the beach at Lake Tahoe.
In contrast, blindfolds and a life vest sound utterly terrifying if you don’t know what to expect. Were we going to be blindfolded and pushed off the pier into the frigid alpine waters of Lake Tahoe? Would we be sparring on a floating platform, and the first person to knock the other off wins? Blindfolded and boated offshore and made to swim back and then do takedowns in the sand?
This is why I have so much respect and appreciation for my partner, Suzi.
Suzi is an amazing woman. She is a mother of four, a breast cancer survivor, and absolutely dedicated to martial arts. Things I take for granted, because I’ve spent so much time watching instead of doing, she’s jumped into blind, despite any apprehension she secretly holds. And make no mistake, you will never know if Suzi feels apprehensive about something, because she will simply roll up her sleeves, dig in her heels, and go for it 100%.
If last week was dedicated to pushing us out of our comfort zones, I nominate Suzi as the absolute destroyer of worlds in this regard. I’m ashamed to admit that I went up to Lake Tahoe full of reservations (I mean, seriously, the high temperature for that morning was in the 50s!) and remained stubbornly uncomfortable with the entire situation for the majority of the event. Suzi, however, went to Tahoe full of trepidation and systematically obliterated at least three separate fears as the day progressed — with a smile on her face the entire time.
In retrospect, I could have seen it as an intriguing challenge. The blindfolds were for doing our forms blind in loose sand. That challenge involved maintaining your focus and balance despite all the unusual noises around you and the unstable surface. The optional life vests were for anyone uncomfortable with their swimming skills; we only went about waist-deep in the water, but, safety first. We not only did more forms in the water (so awkward trying to kick and turn with your entire lower body submerged in the lake), but also did sand sprint relays with a dunk at the halfway point.
However, I didn’t have a smile on my face. My face, unlike Suzi’s, was stuck somewhere between a scowl and a grimace straight through until we switched to boxing and I could forget for a while that we were on the beach at a high altitude lake on an unusually cold day during my work week.
So, here’s to my partner, Suzi! My goal for this week is to hit every workout hard and with an open heart, just like her.