A SNOWBALL’S CHANCE
I’ve mentioned before that, in addition to karate, I also practice an art called “jodo.” Jodo, or “the way of the stick,” is essentially about using a four-foot-long wooden pole to defend yourself against a sword-wielding opponent. In the dojo, of course, practice — which is mostly two-person kata work — is carried out against a wooden sword or bokken.
Very recently I was tested for a promotion in jodo, and, although I passed, I believe that I got something much more valuable than a new rank level from that test.
You see, the conditions that I took it under were not really what you would call “ideal.” Let me see if I can quickly list them here: 1) The test was held only 2 days after my return from a two-and-a-half week stay in the US, so that when I took it I was severely jet-lagged, rather sleep-deprived, and lacking any real chance for serious practice with my partner; 2) My partner was someone that I hardly knew, and with whom I was able to practice only twice; 3) I was still recovering from a broken rib that I’d suffered in a scooter accident about a month before the test; 4) The test would include a written (in Japanese) portion consisting of 2 out of 4 possible essay questions; 5) Upon arriving at the test site, I learned that some of the techniques we’d be tested on might be different than what we’d originally been told; 6) One of the test judges was a man that I’d had a very, very serious run-in with several months earlier; 7) My foot got slightly injured when I was practicing the day before the test; and 8) For various reasons, we were made to sit around on the floor for a couple of hours before actually doing the test.
As I said, not really what you would call “ideal” conditions. And yet, somehow, I passed.
I’ll be honest: During much of the 2 days leading up to the test, I had a real struggle going on inside my head. A big part of me would think, “Who cares how it turns out? There are just too many obstacles this time. I’ve got a snowball’s chance in Saudi Arabia here. Just get the darn thing over with and forget about it!” But then, another part of me would say, “Yeah, I may not pass. There are lots of things in my way. But that’s still no reason to just throw my hands up and surrender. I need to give it my best shot!”
In the end, it certainly was not one of my best jodo performances. But thanks to that test, I was able to re-confirm for myself an important truth: Just because all the odds are against you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t win.