March 2015 I took my P5 examination but I didn't pass it.
After a gruelling test, as me and the other nine P5 candidates sat on the floor around examiner Nadav Shosan while the sweat dried on our sodden T-shirts and we sipped water from partially crushed plastic bottles, the atmosphere was tense. He briefly broke down exactly what we'd done wrong as a group and then moved on to individual feedback and scores.
I was last up (there is a yin and a yang to being the last one in the line up. During the exam, you get to see what everyone else is doing but you also have to wait a while to know your result). He looked at me and said flatly. "You need to retest everything. The spirit is there, the heart is there...but not the technique."
As previous postings on this blog have shown, I had spent time preparing both physically and mentally for the grading and was determined to take the news, either good or bad, with dignity and a positive attitude.
Nadav elaborated that I needed to work on self defence and weapons again. I replied "Do I want to know my score?" and after totting up the individual marks he said "You got 66%".
The minimum pass is 70%. I smiled and said "I'll be back in October" which got a pat on the back from my grading partner and a round of applause from the other P5 candidates.
I felt I had prepared well. I'd spent as much time as I could in front of the TV watching the P5 DVD and practicing the moves. I'd been to the revision sessions at my club and had abstained from alcohol for a week before the testing. I'd gone to bed early with a healthy, carb-heavy meal the night before and had done yoga and a cardio based regime at the gym for 5 weeks prior.
The test itself was a mixture of P4 and P5 stuff. My problem was that I'd not revised any of my P4 material and hadn't really touched it since October of last year. I knew I was making mistakes when tested on the moves but hoped the other areas would pull me through.
The sparring was the usual gruel fest. 7 rounds of 2 minutes, slightly different scenarios each time. By round 5 I had spat my gum shield out at least twice as I was struggling to breathe. After that we had 10 rounds of 4 vs 1, with two turns as the defender and 8 as an attacker holding a stick, a knife or a strike shield.
Unlike my P4 exam where I had sat waiting for my results with certain petulance about not coming back if I failed, I was pleased that this time my genuine mindset was one of acceptance and a desire to return at a later date and pass. I didn't feel bitter, or sad or angry. I was disappointed and felt the pangs as I watched the other guys get their certificates and patches.
But overall...thanks to a mixture of hard work; reading articles on both how to approach gradings and how to deal with fear; determination to give it my all and acceptance of whichever result I was to receive.
This time the work I did, unlike on the previous 4 gradings, didn't get me the new patch. What it did do however was help me to evolve. To accept feedback from the examiner at face value. To believe that my score was fair. To know that I could come back in 6 short months and try again. Above all....to take the experience as one of learning and improvement of my skills.
Nadav told me privately afterwards that I my P5 stuff was OK but the P4 stuff had let me down. He also gave me a massive ego boost when he said I'd got 8 out of 10 for my fighting...even though this is the one area I thought I was weakest on. Fact he had mentioned twice how much I had my hands down during the bouts meant that the high score was for how I approached the fights, not my skills as a fighter.
This was overall a disappointment but I regard it as something that has helped me to accept and to learn, and for that the experience was invaluable.