41-degrees Celsius, in an old school hall that smelt of old timber soaked in domestic cleaner, with the stillness of outside in the baking heat accentuated inside by the tin roof; I had to break this one inch board of wood with my heel in a spinning kick that followed the line of my head height in order to earn my black belt. I was a lanky 16 year-old already exhausted from multiple rounds of sparring, technical demonstrations, improvised multiple attacker scenarios and a multitude of push-ups and sit-ups. I began to garner the power to break this board, supported only at the top by the fingers of my instructor and I didn’t want to strike his fingers (this happened to me a few years later when I was holding the board for a student; believe me it hurts more than stubbing your toe on a bedpost). Staring intently at the board, I focussed my energy, channelled my thoughts and pictured the board in pieces. Not even the mobile phone that broke the silence in the crowd of onlookers could break my concentration. The first kick unleashed on this poor unsuspecting bit of wood from the wrath of a chicken legged 16 year-old failed to slice it in two as I’d pictured. Never mind, I thought, knowing I had two more shots at it before I failed the whole grading. Second hit was much the same as the first, only the piece of wood really disliked me so decided to rip open my foot. I stepped back, wiped the blood from the mat, and understood my predicament. Failure to break this board would mean I would’ve wasted an entire day of testing and would have to repeat the whole saga again in three months. I had to break this board, so what better way for me to look at it than pretending that if I didn’t break it I would never get to fly a fighter aircraft. Yes I know, this mindset is more unrelated than McDonald’s and healthy food, but it’s what always made me channel an extra source of energy. Pretending that I would never fly a fighter aircraft if I didn’t break the board was stopping me getting to my dream, and so I couldn’t let that happen. As I stepped up to the line, the board held in readiness for another chicken whack, the picture in my head was a set of wings behind the board and I needed to break it to get those wings. With a spin and twist that rivalled Strictly Ballroom, the wood not only broke, it was snapped into three pieces with one piece travelling up and over the heads of the judging panel five metres to my right. Once again, that little dream of mine inspired action. I continued on to achieve my second degree black belt, which was long my goal, as I knew anyone with a reasonable level of fitness could get their first degree so I had to prove to myself that I could go beyond this. The thought of flight helped me to fight. In my next post, you will see how the thought of fight helped my first solo flight.