Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Commonality of Training

When I first started training, many years ago, the first belt I wore was a white belt.

It signified that I was a beginner, that I had just started my journey. Now many years later and still on the path of my own training and now responsible for the training of others, I can see the factors that tie us all together.

One of the things I learned early on was not to focus on belts or rank. This did not mean you did not respect those higher ranked than you, but rather that ranks were not the goal, nor should they be. I can't say I fully understood the words of wisdom that were being shared with me at the time by several black belts. I, like so many others had gotten caught up in rank fever.

It's a condition usually prevalent in the beginning ranks and children who train. What occurs is that the journey is lost and the student becomes fixated on what rank they are and how rapidly they can advance to the next rank. Left unchecked, the student loses sight that training is not about rank and more about the journey itself.

After a few years of this I finally came to the realization that it is not about the rank or belt or stripe, but rather being the best rank I was at the moment. Let me pause here for a moment. This doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to reach the higher ranks, what it means is being fully present right where you are, the advancement, belts, stripes etc. will come of their own accord if you are diligent and practice being present right where you are.

So what are the commonalities? We all start as beginners. All of us have at one point, been beginners. More importantly, those of us with a few years under our belts would do well to keep the beginner mindset to prevent the onset of ego. After all, what does a belt mean anyway? All it means is that you have been training for X amount of time and that you should know Y material. That is all it means, at its essence. Character or level of maturity is not indicated by the belt around your waist, for those to be seen or experienced you must go beyond the belt to the person wearing the belt.

There are no extraordinary powers conferred upon you when you don a black belt much to the surprise of the many students who achieve shodan (Shodan literally means "beginning degree" and is the subject for another post) each year. What you do discover upon reaching black belt or any of the senior ranks is that now you have a responsibility towards those who are on the path after you. Rather than lord it over your juniors, your purpose is to serve them in any way that you can, not the other way around. Unfortunately there are training halls where this relationship is skewed and the meaning lost. In a school devoid of ego this will never be cause for concern, since the seniors will remember that they too were white belts or beginners and empathize with what the white belts are going through.

The other major commonality is that we are all human beneath our gi. We may have some differences in the way we train, but we all sweat, train, and bleed on the dojo floor together. We all have setbacks and successes on our path of training. The important thing to remember is that we are not the first to go through this, and more importantly that we are not the last.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

No comments: