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So I'm sitting on the mat minding my own; Sensei is up taking ukemi for his instructor and it dawns on me that I'm the fourth most senior person on the mat and there are a lot of people on the mat and everyone above me is an instructor.
Suddenly I feel like the tip of the sword. We're here to teach weapons work to a new dojo and I'm in the thick of it. I don't get to skitter around checking people moving from pair to pair. No, I have to train with someone and I have to get things right because the guy in front of me is trying to learn from me and so is everyone who can see me. I have to perform perfectly, over and over again.
I am not Alex: I am an example. Yes, if they get stuck they will probably ask one of the instructors but in the meantime they're looking to see what I'm doing; there's that pause at the start of training where everyone looks around to see what to do and today they were looking at me.
I find these situations where people clock on to the fact that I'm the senior student of the senior student of the guy teaching and suddenly people really want to train with me. This whole new ranking system develops; the sandan or yondan over there isn't important: ikkyu over here is because he's in the lineage. I'm the senior person in this lineage that's training, I must be trained with.
For me this is odd, I feel like a nobody, I'm just another person on the mat; I'm there to do my own training or to be Sensei's dogsbody as he is his instructors dogsbody. Actually no; in practice I'm both their dogsbodies. Literally I have someone assigned to me to look after my weapons because I'm looking after Sensei's and his Sensei's weapons!
Actually it's weapons that single me out. If Sensei is up taking ukemi and he hands his bokken to me if he can or he puts it down on the mat and I shoot out and collect it before someone lands on it. This is the defining act; the fact that I can touch his weapons singles me out as being part of that in group.
I find it all quite shocking. I'm not an instructor yet I have acquired this status and a long with it this responsibility. I find this increasingly with my practice; I'm responsible for making sure I'm a good example. I find it difficult and rewarding.