Last Saturday, I was at the mufti-school testing for new black belts and current black belts doing their midterms or testing for the next rank. My son was scheduled to do his first-degree midterm and I had some students from the school participating as well. I attended the event prepared to encourage and cheer on the nervous students.
My instructors had other plans for me: I was asked to sit on the panel as a judge.
I was assured that the head instructors would make the final decisions but they would take into account the scores of the lower-rank judges--there were about 8 or 9 of us. I suspect it was more an exercise for me to acquire experience and for my instructors to make sure my judgements were not out of line. While this was not the first judging assignment I'd had, it felt more stressful, because these were not lower ranks.
But an interesting thing happened. Just having the different responsibilities affected the way I viewed the testers' performances. It clarified for me, almost immediately, what the fundamentals are. The things that I had stressed in my own training and those of my students didn't always aligned with what I felt that night.
It was truly eye-opening. It didn't matter if the tester was a child or an adult, a first-degree or a third, the fundamentals remained the same. Proper technique, intention, focus: these must be present in a form for it to look good.
Then there were the intangibles; talent, inherent affinity for martial arts. The qualities were impossible to pin down, but unmistakable when present. Granted, personal tastes came into play but talking with my fellow judges afterwards assured me that we agreed on all the big picture assessments.
Which of course made me wonder if I could get myself to think as if I were on the other side of the publishing process, like a agent or acquiring editors.
What are the fundamentals: clarity of writing? Authenticity? Appropriate use of structure? Balance of story-telling elements?
And what about the intangibles? Obviously it is deadly to try to appear talented and gifted by the way we write, but how would I allow who I am to come through?