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Guest Post: A Snowball's Chance

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

Mark is the author of Karate Ni Sente Nashi: What the Masters Had to Say and Japanese Ego Negation and the Achievement of Self, which are hosted at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. He has also published English translations of Japanese Karate articles, including Practice Kata Correctly, by Kenwa Mabuni.

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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.

Mark Tankosich