Onward and upward
When I meet students that do not know me, at other dojos or at tournaments, I am often asked what rank I am.
Now sometimes the person doing the asking needs to know for a practical reason.
For example.
Perhaps they are asking to make sure that I am called up in the proper rank order if I am to be introduced with other instructors, or perhaps it is to make sure I am registered in the right category for a particular tournament event.
At other times, however, I might be asked the same question by a more junior student who is simply curious, since I for one do not wear a large number of stripes across my belt to indicate my rank as some black belts do. Since things like that can sometimes be misinterpreted by others as seeming to be saying to the whole world, "look at me I am important".
In the first example I will always give them my rank right away, since to this person knowing the correct answer is important for reasons other than mere curiosity.
In the second example, however, I take a different approach and I always say the same thing, "I am a beginner."
Now this answer invariably causes the person doing the asking to look at me for a moment with a surprised expression on their face, and then they might smile and say something like, "no your not, you are a black belt".
I for one always find it interesting that some students find it hard to imagine that a person with a Dan rank of any kind could still consider themselves a beginner. I guess to them having a black belt must somehow automatically make you a person who should knows it all. In which case I can see how my answer would come as a surprise to them.
Then again I suppose I should not be so surprised since from time to time we have all probably come across Yudansha who, regardless of their rank, really do try to give the impression that they "know it all".
Sad really.
I have known many experts in many different fields of endeavour, and each one has at some point or another during our time together, said that even in their field of expertise, and despite their long list of credentials, they still do not know it all.
They too are still learning.
And there in I think is one of the great truths about many experts.
They freely admit that the total sum of their current knowledge may give them "expert status" in the eyes of many people, but they themselves know that they have only scratched the surface, and that each day brings them new opportunities to expand their knowledge in their chosen profession.
I too feel the same way.
Every minute I spend in the dojo is a learning process.
Each movement, each technique, each kata, teaches me something new, or re-enforces and confirms for me something I already knew. Either way each minute in the dojo, or outside of it for that matter, is a constant learning process.
My learning curve, however, is never only upward.
I for one make lots of mistakes, but to me these "mistakes" are little markers that continually try and point me in the right direction, and that in the end need to be heeded, since they contribute greatly to making sure that I travel down the right path.
Now it is important to remember that the right answer may not appear the first, the second, or the hundredth time you try something, but if you keep and open mind and an honest approach to what ever the task it is at hand, then success can never be far behind.
Yes rank has its place.
After all we are a hierarchical society within the confines of the dojo or other karate related events, but your Karate training and your personal goals should never be based solely upon a desire for a higher rank.
Instead your goal should focus on learning more about things you already think you know well enough, improving the things that you know are not good enough, and constantly striving to make yourself a better martial artist, and for that matter a better person through the "way" of karate.
"Seek perfection of character"
Gichin Funakoshi 1868-1957
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay