I had practiced this break time and time again. It was my best break of all. Normally, my
foot went through the board like a hot knife through butter. I could break double boards with that sidekick and not blink an eye or break a sweat. But now—now that everything was on the line, my foot jammed the board long before it should have penetrated.
My hands were still shaking furiously. I jumped from foot to foot, trying to shake off the first two misses. Two misses. Two out of three possible chances wasted. The third chance was do or die. No break, no black belt.
Normally I was a star student. My instructor even called me a bragging right. What was
happening to me? Why couldn’t I make this break?
“Face me,” Mr. Suz demanded.
“Yes, sir.” Tears were beginning to well in my eyes.
“Listen carefully,” he began to talk. I felt a hundred pairs of eyes on me, but as he stared at me and forced me to focus on what he was saying, the crowd began to disappear. I could only hear what I was being told. It was the only thing that mattered now. “If you break this, you pass. You become a black belt. If you miss, you are nothing more than you were yesterday. You may come back to try in three months, but that’s not you. You don’t need to come back a second time. You have never failed before. Don’t start now. Now, ask-”
Before he could finish, I was at attention, and broke in, “Permission to break my board, sir!”
“Are you going to break it?” he demanded.
... middle of paper ...
...bout their new ranks, waiting to be dismissed from the ceremonies.
Suddenly, Mr. Suz cleared his throat. He looked out at the class and began to speak. What he said though surprised everyone, especially me.
“I want to you to look to your right,” he instructed his class, and thrust his arm in my direction. I flushed bright red. “I want you to look at her. Everyone here saw her at testing, and everyone here saw her fail. It is always hard to fail a testing, but to have the guts and the courage to come and watch everyone who passed when she didn’t, that is impressive. That is true black belt character. I hope everyone comes to watch and cheer for her at the next testing.”
I wanted to cry again but not out of shame this time. My eyes had tears brimming, and I could barely tell him “Thank you.” I knew then that I had passed the hardest test I had ever taken.
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