A small matter of not seeking a black belt

There have been occasions when my sensei’s have wiggled their black belts at us and asked, “so, who wants one of these?”  (Which then leads to a talk on the need and desire to train regularly and that the belt is a mere symbol).

I’m at a loss when the question is raised.  It’s not that I fail to train hard.  It’s not that I feel my time in the dojo will be a short one.  The urge to improve myself is very much there.  But I don’t feel my training is directed towards becoming a dan grade (black belt) but rather a never ending goal of improving on what I have learnt.  Yet if I were to answer my sensei’s questions with, “no, I don’t want one of those,” I feel that’s not quite the truth either.

Some might say I lack motivation.  I disagree.

  • I turn up to every session and seminar I can.
  • I do my best to absorb the lessons shared with me.
  • When thrown to the mat I bounce up again as soon as possible in order to maximise my training time.
  • My training diary doesn’t just record what has been covered in the last session, but reflects on what worked well for me, and what areas I failed to grasp.

So imagine my delight when I came across the following in Dave Lowry’s book, In The Dojo: A guide to the rituals and etiquette of the Japanese martial arts.

“As a student, a monjin, a person at the gate, this idea that there isn’t going to be a graduation or a goal reached may be the most important lesson for you to learn.  It is a difficult one to really absorb.  Some will not be able to do it at all.  The notion that you will just continue to do this thing again and again, week after week, year after year, it is too foreign, too odd, and from a modern perspective in many instances, too nonsensical.”

HURRAH!  I had started to wonder if my lack of urge to rapidly climb the ranks was at odds with what I was doing, but it would seem if anything it is closer to the heart of my training.

Do I think I might reach dan grade one day?  Ahh, now that is another question.  If I continue with my training, I retain  passion for my aikido and jiu jitsu, and I work hard then I would say, “yes, there is a small chance that if I have the ability then I might reach that level.”

But right now, it would be great to do ippon seio nage without coming up on my toes, ikkyo without the pause of thinking which way to step or collapsing my arms, and hane goshi without falling onto my uke as I throw the leg out.

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