Monday, April 11, 2005

Small Ensemble Test

By about 2 in the afternoon, my back is no longer bothering me. Before I head off to teach, I call and leave a message at Hughes Institute.

"My back's feeling better. Call me at home if you're doing a make-up test today."

When I get home, I find a message from Master Hughes. He's doing a make-up test for "a couple other people." I get supper ready to serve and head out the door for a 6 p.m. test.

The other people at the make-up test are June and her son Raidon. They are both high green belts. I'm glad to see people I know--I'm glad I'm not alone today.

When it comes to just about anything, I prefer performing in a group--I always have. I played piano for many years, but never really enjoyed performances. I played flute, too, and disliked solos. Playing in band, or better, in a small ensemble was much more satisfying. I like to sing, but I do not have a solo voice--I love singing in choirs. And of course in dance, solos are very rare; we dance ensemble: together.

Even practicing in a group is wonderful. I really love getting together with Steve Strong to jam: me on guitar or flute; him on guitar or banjo. I love the way two can make patterns and sounds that are impossible for one. I love hashing out trouble spots in a group, figuring out how to arrange, or tempi, or where things are going wrong--and then listening to the relationships between us all as we run through the music.

I think even in teaching, I rarely "solo." I prefer to conduct discussions, set up activities, work together. I don't think I ever really "lecture;" the closest I manage is in Professional Writing when I have a few powerpoint-based classes. But even those depend on student participation--in discussion or activities.

So testing today with two others is just fine. Testing with the whole class would have been fine, too, but this seems more like a small ensemble rather than a band. The interactions are more finely honed, my "voice" is heard.

My focus is good this evening, better than it was last Thursday. During basic movements, Master Hughes corrects my high block and my side kick, making slight adjustments to what I had been doing. He also corrects my back stance, too. "See where your foot is? It should be here," he said, showing me. "Oh, I think I'm standing in fourth position," I say.

I do my forms without hesitation. I survive sparring (I don't think I did particularly well at it, but I did it), and I break the board with my reverse kick on the first try. I even get to hold boards for June. "It's cool to see it from this perspective," I tell her.

"Did you pass?" my brother asks when I chat with him on the phone this evening.

"We don't find out until Wednesday," I explain to him. "We go for the belt ceremony, and lists of names are up on the wall with our belt level. If I pass it will say 'orange.' We won't know until then."

Still, I feel good about this test, better than I did about my first one. Perhaps the extra time gave me motivation--or a chance for everything to settle in my mind. Or maybe that small-ensemble approach is best for me.

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