Thursday, March 10, 2011

Training and Deferred Gratification

We live in a era of instant gratification, so it's something of a paradox to practice something that has no immediate outward manifestation of achievement. When I am asked
"How long will it take until I get my black belt?" A few things come to mind. First of all my impression is that the person is not very serious about training if that is the first question. Those of us who do train understand that achieving the rank of shodan, or first degree black belt is really only the beginning of training. The next thought that surfaces is that the person in question has not absorbed the lesson of deferred gratification and is simply looking for a symbol of status.

Most martial arts are long arduous expressions of countless repetitions done over a long period of time. If you do not internalize the concept of deferred gratification you can quickly become frustrated and disillusioned that your progress is taking so long. This way of being usually comes from not understanding that to embark on the path of training, you have to learn to measure achievements in the span of years and decades.

So how do we learn to incorporate deferred gratification into our training? One way we do it is by not rushing through the ranks. If you allow the student to progress through the ranks at a measured pace, not looking to the next rank but trying to learn everything that is available to him or her at the current rank, the focus becomes less an attitude of "what's next?" and more an acceptance of "what do I need to work on now?"

Not every school adopts this philosophy, which on occasion leads to getting black belts in 2 years, or 8 yr old black belts. If that works for a specific school, that is their prerogative. In our school it takes quite some time to achieve a high rank, not because we feel it should take a long time, but because other aspects of the character need to be molded, prepared and reach maturity before the responsibility of a black belt is given.

So how should you approach your training? In the moment, cognizant of the fact that a minute is made up of seconds, hours of minutes, days of hours, months of days, and years of months. When you approach your training like this, time becomes irrelevant.

strong spirit, strong mind, strong body
Sensei Orlando