We had a grading at my karate club recently. Every grading is important, a benchmark to test yourself and make sure you are where you’re supposed to be. It can be an exciting, and occasionally stressful, event, depending how you feel about performing in front of an audience. Because there is an audience. Family shows up to watch and it’s usually the biggest class you see every three months. But demonstrations at the end of class are a frequent teaching tool anyway, so there shouldn’t be too much performance anxiety, right?
I can’t speak for other clubs, so I’m not sure if we do things differently or not, but the grading list is posted a couple of weeks ahead of time. If you’re on it, you’re going to receive the stripe or belt listed beside your name. It’s not a foregone conclusion: I believe it’s possible to screw up the grading or something related to it bad enough to make Sensei reconsider, but I’ve yet to see it happen. Sensei is always watching and measuring (as are all of the senior instructors, I’ll bet). If you’re not ready for the next belt, you’re not ready for the next belt and you won’t get it. Oh, you’ll probably add an extra stripe to mark progress, and that’s fine, too. As long as you’re always learning.
In my case, the recent grading was an important one. Brown Belt, the final colour before black. (And grading for Shodan is a different beast, but that’s another subject entirely.) Brown belt, the one that marks you as a senior student for everyone to see. You’re supposed to know what you’re doing and it’s time to start being able to teach for real. Brown Belt is a big deal, at least for me. Yes, it’s just another marker on the path, not a step in and of itself, and I try to remind myself of that. I still have a great deal to learn, and that actually brings me quite a bit of happiness on its own.
The belt is still new. For all I know, it might squeak when I turn around too quickly. Some days I feel like I’ve earned it, and some days I wonder how I managed it. But there are nearly four years of learning and work and sweat invested in that belt and I know the effort I’ve put into it.
That also brings me a lot of joy.
And now it’s time to step it up, start figuring more things out on my own, and get truly consistent in my attendance in classes where I serve as an instructor. Note to the world: teaching kids is not as easy as most people think. Getting a group of five or ten (or more) completely different kids to listen to you all at the same time is both an art and a science, and not to be underestimated, especially when they’re younger. But it’s fun, and I’m learning a lot.
Still walking the path, and looking forward to the grueling trial that will be my shodan grading that still seems comfortably far off, but is probably only a little over a year from now.
Be well, everyone.by