G. is a 1st Degree Black Belt Student.
The Student Corner will be updated
frequently, giving students the opportunity to voice their opinions related to
their individual experiences with Okinawa Kenpo Karate.|
Moving In, Taking the hit, Getting up
Trying to quantify the lessons learned in the dojo leaves one wondering where to begin. One thing for sure is that some principles and axioms aren’t transferable via a contract to obtain a belt promotion over a predictable number of years.
How many times have you talked to someone training in Martial Arts that was able to say “In 4 years I’ll have my Black Belt, and then 2 years after that I’ll have my second degree?” I understand the need to build confidence and improve the self esteem of society’s individuals, but a false sense of confidence and purchasable credentials are dangerous compromises that may very well defeat the original goal and underlying tenants of what we are here to learn. A street fighter who is hardened from a difficult life is highly likely to understand more about survival, and how to achieve it, than any Blackbelt (or student regardless of rank for that matter) that is produced via a predictable timeline and formalized promotion contract. We would obviously be very foolish to think our belts grant us immunity to street reality…akin to a college graduate presuming that their diploma infers an advantage when it comes to intelligence or common sense in daily living. So…though I know Martial Arts is one of the best vehicles for self-improvement…I start to wonder when I see commercial appeal pervert its potential and produce generations of overly confident and misguided individuals who may not know how vulnerable they truly are. I agree that with any luck, a peaceful demeanor will save us all from having to find out – and I wish that to be the case for everyone, but we know that isn’t always going to be the case.
Comparatively speaking, in our Dojo, no one seeks out promotion. You can take pride in your commitment to your lessons and your confidence grows naturally as a function of applying yourself and what you have learned. When promotions do occur, they are never predictable or scheduled via normalized expectations; in fact - they usually occur without too much notice and are accompanied with trepidation and anxiety from the given student. The student can assuredly take pride in the milestone but the accomplishment is really only best understood by fellow students; from my experience it is only cheapened when you try to explain it to other individuals who simply don’t “get it.” Each student’s lesson is crystallized in real fighting among fellow students who believe similarly. We are taught to step in and engage the oncoming attack, we understand what it feels like to get hit in full contact Kumite…and when our defenses are poor enough to allow it to happen, our bodies persist in their job of getting up and resuming the fight. We are taught not to complement a “good hit,” but to rather criticize ourselves since our own poor defenses allowed it to happen. This principle has many parodies in everyday living (it’s actually another way of saying “responsibility”) …as do many things an aware student can learn by paying attention to what goes on in the dojo environment.
The belt system is simply an acknowledgement of our individual progress, but it can never be more than an indication that we have reached the base of a very tall mountain we will never reach the top of. I think we all understand that basic principle and the theme of the school reinforces that we are all going to remain students with much to learn…no matter how old we get and no matter what color is around our waist.
Simply speaking…I think it’s safe to say that there are many years ahead to continue exploring what it means to ”move in,” how it feels to “take the hit,” and if you were unfortunate enough to allow the latter to happen….the necessity of “getting up.” Before you invest in a false trophy, you may want to consider that your belt is no more and no less than the time you take to learn the lessons of the previous masters as you explore how to move in and respond to your life. One person’s opinion in any case…..
Good luck and good health.