Sunday, July 02, 2006

Being Faithful, or buying a belt..

I believe that there is a responsibiity to the Sensei who shared his/her effort, and investment towards your
knowledge, and improvement in skill. In a way, they are giving to you what was given to them, and they
hope that you will share with others so that the art of karate can expand, and enhance. I tend to view that
statement in the Shotokan Dojo Kun of "Being faithful" as encompassing this concept (In addition to others).

Learning in our history was based on the Mentor/ apprentice method. A hopeful student would find a knowledgeable person in the art that they wished to learn ( whether it was baking, blacksmithing, medicine, poetry, music, etc.) They developed a relationship with their teacher, and "inherited" their knowledge. I think that ever since our society has replaced the "apprentice" method of teaching with the modern
Public school system "factory" business we have developed a "buyer" attitude towards learning. This attitude consists of "we pay a certain amount in cash for the course, we attend class to get a checkmark beside our name for the amount of time agreed to, we meet the expected criteria, we pass our exam, and "TADAA" we graduate. This totally different way of looking at learning skills has created a Mega-business in our society. Some people's lives are dedicated to attending Universities/Colleges towards increasing that business.

I have noticed that many people in the modern dojo approach martial arts with the Business/ factory learning mindset.. they automatically assume that they pay the money for class, show up to the scheduled classes, and at the end of "x" amount of years they will be a Black belt. Isn't that the first question that many a white belt asks? "How many years before I get a black belt?" Oy.. it's hard not to roll my eyes at that question. How do I explain that the skills required will take much time, repetition, effort, sweat, courage, dedication, and humility? I almost want to tell them that they can have a black belt right now.. just go to the local martial arts store, and buy one.. they cost around $10.

How can I describe to them the "path" that you have to walk to "get a black belt" especially when I witness so many dojo that allow people to buy their belt instead of earn it? I'm just grateful that I have had the amazing gift of stumbling into a Kyokushin Sensei who taught me what being a black belt consists of by his example, and teachings. He awakened my mind, and heart to the awesome depth of karate, and made me desire to become a true karate-ka. It is through his guidance, wisdom, and consistency that I REALIZED what was expected of me in my efforts.

Many people do not understand that becoming a black belt isn't that easy.. I've seen SO many people astonished that improving in skill, and knowledge means facing your inadequacies with humility, and to stop pampering yourself, but to challenge yourself to go that one extra step. I've seen so many people verbally parroting their intent to apply themselves, but when the actual effort is demanded upon them, they chose to let the ball go.

The kind of mental, and physical conditioning contained within karate training challenges the student mentally, spiritually, and physically, and I find that this kind of training will bring out the faithful students who will continue the art of karate into the future. In my opinion, it isn't the 2-3 year factory black belts that will enhance, and perpetuate karate to the future generations. I would like to predict that these people will quickly get bored, and start shopping for a new art to "learn" and get a black belt in in order to keep the thrill, and excitement of the "newness" of learning, and also having the prestige of having more than one black belt. I've heard that sort of comment too often: "when I get my black belt in this art, I'm going to go get one in aikido.." They present the idea that "getting a black belt" is the end of learning, and that they have learned all that is possible in this art, so now it's fine to switch to another. This is a fallacy.. totally untrue. Receiving the Shodan black belt means that you are ready to START learning your art. In my opinion, it's o.k. if people want to learn different arts, but what bothers me is the fact that they do it just because they think that they have achieved mastery with the art they are in because they think they know it all... SHUDDER. These people walk away from the dojo representing the art to others who aren't aware that there is SO much more to the art. There is a total lack of relationship, acknowledgement, and gratitude being given towards the Sensei/ Sifu/ Sabonim who invested him/herself towards your achievement. To think! These Instructors have dedicated over 20 years to training in their art, and they would admit that they are STILL learning new things, how can a fresh Shodan have "mastered" the art in 2 years?

I chose to be faithful to the Sensei who have shared their knowledge with me by practicing what I was taught, sharing it with others, and to be willing to continue keeping a "beginner's mind" in my art. I didn't buy my black belt, I nurtured it into existance.


[Mat] said...

I guess that kind of question comes to mind once in a while. Different things trigger it and yet you can't help but wonder why can't people see.

I guess a lot of things contribute to that. Few are those that understand from the beginning that quite like running or biking, you'll only get good with practice. On and on and on. And few get the fact that in time, there will be more than mere movements. If you don't get that, what's the motivation except being a black belt and holding a generally approved sign of knowledge in fighting without weapons.

I personnaly think that black belts should be removed. Each time I get asked what belt I am, I don't answer. Instead, I ask: "what difference does it make that I'm white or green or red or blue or black? Do these ranks even hold any kind of meaning to you? - No? Just know I practice karate. That's all you need to know".

And to the newcomer that ask how long will it take, I ask the same question. And then, I ask what is a black belt? No matter what they answer, I only say that a black belt is simply a white belt that never quit.

Until you understand that, you'll always be discouraged. And if that person doesn't understand it, I predict that within a year, he/she'll have quit.

But that's just me. :)

supergroup7 said...

I like your answer to "what rank are you?", Mat. It's so straightforwards, and honest.

Keeping it real! Good for you, Mat.