Last Saturday was my first Hapkido grading.

I wasn’t nervous.

I knew my theory. I had practiced my solo and partner self defence routines a hundred times. I had filmed myself practising my patterns and reviewed them again and again, adjusting every error I could identify. I’d even gone to the previous grading and watched other people grade for this same belt, so I knew what to expect and what was expected.

I’ve graded dozens of times before in other arts. That was awhile ago, but if anything that made me more confident. I was a kid then and now I was a grown man with a family. Successful. Responsible. What did I have to be nervous about?

Walking onto the mat for my turn, I was calm.

I was ready.

Then, the grading began and the nerves me hit like a sledgehammer. My heart rate skyrocketed. I was second guessing everything. Techniques that I knew backwards suddenly felt uncertain.

What the hell?

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