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Last Friday I was asked to do several jiyu waza's. This usually, IME, means I've screwed up the first so Sensei wants me to try to improve. Oh well.
Then, after class Sensei approaches me outside in the parking lot - an unusual move for him, though not unheard of. He asks me if I've been doing anything special in my life, particularly as it pertains to Aikido. He says he's noticed considerable improvement in my Aikido. A really huge difference.
Right, so, back when I got my nidan, he told me he expected me to be ready for my sandan in about half the time it normally takes (1.5 years as opposed to 3). It's been almost two years.
Then, one of his top students who knows him better than anyone else on the planet had told me several weeks ago that he thinks Sensei is waiting for me to ask for it. Like I'm basically ready and that I'm the one who needs to realize this.
I'm not one to argue with my instructor's judgement (mostly), but I certainly don't feel ready. I feel, well, like I've got a long way to go. In some ways, Sandan is a bigger deal than shodan ever could be. Aside from it just being a higher rank, there's the expectation that a sandan should pretty much have mastery of the art. A sandan is at the point where any learning is up to the student. No teacher required anymore.
So, I'm left wondering. Was his approaching me a subtle hint? Like, "Come on, Michael, get over your stupid self-doubt already!" sort of thing?
I don't know, but I'm still hanging on to my self doubt for a bit.
I realized recently, though, that my greatest fear is to become as arrogant as people occasionally perceive me to be. It's one thing to have people see me that way because I try to be confident and decisive, but it's another to actually be that arrogant and see it in myself.
So, maybe I need to set some kind of milestone for myself. Something that I can say, "I did this, so maybe it's time to ask Sensei about my sandan". But, the thing is, it isn't the rank I want, it's being worthy of the rank. It's feeling like I really am that good.