The day had come, after almost 8 years of sweat, aches, injuries, laughs, and goals achieved, goals failed, tears, and many tantrums I had arrived at this day. Before going into the hall, with the equipment strewn around me, I felt a wave of nostalgia tainted with nausea. This was to be it... no amount of shaking and pacing was going to save me from this ordeal.

After an 'interesting' taxi ride where a confused driver picked up some breeze blocks, a tarpaulin, and raced over to pick up a breaking holder from Rayners Lane whilst I held a training knife and calmly explained I had no intention to mug him. , I watched Mr A and one of the other examiners enter the building, then I took a breath and went inside.  Shortly after the Rayners Lane A team had arrived along with Mr Pethick, one of Mr McCarthy's students all of whom had the full intention of giving me a beating with little effort on their part and much pain on mine.

The grading took place in the newly acquired Pinner hall, with dark wooden floors and even darker lighting. In my nervous, naive state I thought this may play into my favour as I thought that the Grading panel would be able to see less. Hmm, I turned out to be so very wrong on that score!!
After unsuccessfully trying to 'ninja'(sneak ) my way on to the left hand spots so I didn't have to say the tenets and the oath, we were bowed in and I was asked to say the tenets and the oath. The nerves had now turned into an annoying stomach cramp but at least I still had the power of speech. 

My Powers of cognitive thought however had evaporated.  We kicked off with a couple of patterns. On completion of each, a pause which in my mind lasted an eternity followed . I worry about pauses in gradings as what normally follows is a question from the grading panel, something along the lines of 'so why did you do ..... Stance that way , is that the way you were taught? '. One of these questions, and I'm sure you would agree with me on this, robs you of any self satisfaction you may have gained in completing the pattern without forgetting it. In every pause I began to question each pattern performed, which is dangerous as what you need more than ever in a grading of this magnitude is self belief and quite possibly a large sturdy pair of incontinence pants. 
The few patterns went by with no questions posed. I thought Joy, and so did my stomach .Until, right smack where I didn't expect, we were asked to perform our non measure-up breaks. My stomach cramp returned with the reliability of a pre-programmed alarm clock. Mr A with a smile on his face announced a turning kick on my left leg, and a back kick with my right. My stomach does a back flip and I rather less than calmly walk up to the board. I position myself for the break , and in slow motion I feel my head whipping round , I see my leg extending and shock beyond all shock I see my leg pound the board and break it. The stomach cramp subsides for a few minutes. The turning Kick was also successful thankfully.

With a tiny bit of the Breaking section completed, on came the relentless mix of 1 step sparring, 2 step sparring, more patterns, 2v1 sparring, free sparring, self defence and the above with a knife. All of this was mixed into a frenetic haze and through some of it I felt I was on another planet, the brain had decided to take a holiday and I was merely reacting to what was being thrown at me, well sometimes I couldn't even successfully react unfortunately!! In 2v1 my plan of action almost solely was RUN!! .. If one of them comes near hit them with the all the ferocity my little body could muster. In the end, I managed to get through the bouts without having bits of me smeared across the shiny dark wood flooring.

Mr (destroy it if it's living) Gautum was picked to go up against me for a bout of padded sparring, the stomach cramp had now metamorphasised into an angry pixie intent of jumping about inside. I moved around as Mr G unleashed his full retinue of kicks, whilst I defended until the moment where Mr G had forgotten he hadn't done a back kick yet and in a bullet timesque situation the kick landed beautifully onto my solar plexus which sent me to the ground squealing like a hungry warthog. Apart from the pain associated from that I was mostly concerned with the warthog sounds which I couldn't stop.  I thought I was going to release the angry pixie onto the floor for a few seconds.

Mercifully I had a couple of minutes to recover and watch Andrew's Bout,  after a blitz of high speed techniques and some artful dodging I was impressed , and then saddened as I doubted I had done quite so well in that area .

A couple more rounds of patterns ensued. Then my two worst Patterns with the 'Questions' arrived. I felt sorry for Andrew as my defective walking stance was eloquently corrected in Saju Makgi and I wouldn't have blamed him for giggling when I span round the wrong way whilst executing the twin elbow thrust in Hwa Rang. I make myself better thinking about this moment blaming it on the fatigue and the ever more frequent asthma episodes. 

Whilst recovering from one of these episodes, where I am wheezing and turning redder than a post-box, and starting to beat myself up for what I thought looked like hideous fitness levels, Mr McCarthy commented that my fitness had improved since the last grading! I think at the time it was what I needed to hear. Things after this point were becoming more bearable again.

Soon enough the remainder of the breaking needed to be completed. The stomach pixie threatened to bite and I was called up for jump side kick 2 boards both legs. Needless to say all those who know me know how much I love Jump side kick; it's one of those kicks I'd wish to put in a cupboard and banish for eternity but, it's required so there was no getting away from it. After an internal fight with my stomach pixie, I jumped and bounced off the boards on both sides the first time. On the second attempt however, breaks were achieved and I just about managed to restrain myself from doing the infamous 'Lyndsey dance' (see Jumping kicks vid for a demonstration).  Andrew and I finished off our required hand techniques successfully.

Next we had to explain and demonstrate 3 patterns applications. As my cognitive abilities were further debilitated towards the grading I managed to Just about explain an elbow break in Joong gun, a throw in Dan Gun and a knife hand block utilized to the cateroid artery followed by a fingertip thrust to the throat combination, all of these came with a myriad of questions from the grading panel questioning the effectiveness of the techniques, however I managed to stumble through!
Finally, we were asked to perform our demo breaks. After witnessing an impressive knife hand , hook kick and flying side kick combination , I thought perhaps my palm strike through a breeze block wouldn't look so awesome as I had pictured in my head. But then I mused that at least it's a technique I knew I could pull off, and it may look simple, but I was going for the different material approach. I'll try and be a bit mote flashy if I pass this!!  My hand went through the block, with more ease then it had done in practice, and the grading reached its conclusion. We cleared up, were dismissed and I immediately relapsed the stomach pixie.

It was tougher on me then I had thought, the next day I couldn't leave my bed,  I can honestly say it was harder than, and to, recover from the London to Brighton bike ride.

March '08 Dan Grading Report
by Lyndsey Reynolds, 1st degree