Today I meandered on over to Charles James Sensei's blog and found a very, very interesting thing. The message was clear: not everyone who wears a black belt really IS a black belt. It got me thinking, am I a black belt or do I just wear one? My training over nine years has consisted of so much repetition, so many kicks, so many punches, and many, many rounds of kata. Does that time warrant me wearing a black belt? Recently I've begun looking back to how I felt when I first began karate, but it has been hard for me to re-capture the feeling of being really new. Now that I wear a black belt, do I feel a different kind newness? When I train now I always look to the new feelings that crop up with old moves. I'm constantly aware of how I'm moving, constantly aware that there is still so much for me to learn. There's also this itch to go so much further, and how does that happen? To me this signifies that I am a black belt. If I just wore a black belt, I believe that all of my actions would come from ego-elephantitis. I see it in my dojo, and it's not pretty. Not many have this, but when I see it I think that where I am coming from is so different. For me my training is about improving spirit, improving movement, improving skill, but also keeping myself humble and open to learning from my kohai. If I keep in mind that I'm always a new student whenever I enter the dojo, my training will always show me new things. This does not make the shodan path any easier to follow. In fact it has made it so much harder. I relish that difficulty because it makes me stronger.
You may have noticed that I deleted a few posts. When I wrote them I was coming from a place of anger and frustration. I feel that now I have resolved the issue I no longer need to be reminded of what happened. Going through that experience and conquering those feelings of inadequacy really moved me along in my training. I feel more confident in my teaching, more true to myself as a martial artist. I am indeed a black belt and earned every ounce of it. That, of course, does not make me an expert. On the contrary, I'm still a newbie.