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Inner Turmoil 11-01-2011 10:04 AM

Honorary or Earned???
 
I was going to make this a private blog, but in the end, I wanted some feedback, so I decided to put it here. I have put this in the anonymous category to spare any hurt feelings I might cause if someone were to come across this from my previous dojos and read this. Sorry it is a bit lengthy (and bloggey).

Imagine yourself as a young teenager. You go to the dojo two days a week and put in your four hours of time. That is all the classes they have and since it still isn't enough, you practice at home or go into the dojo on weekends (you are trusted with a key) to work on your weapons and such. For four years, you never miss one class. You show up, you train hard and you strive to improve. Over the course of four years, you find yourself a purple belt (the fourth of six belt colors in the dojo). Because life has continued to progress, you find yourself heading off to college (six hours away). Obviously, you aren't going to be able to continue training at the dojo (or anywhere for that matter- this particular martial art is hard to find). When you come home for winter, spring and summer breaks, you put in the mat time, but in the end, you feel like you are just getting back into the swing of things and you are off to college again. Somewhere along this winding road, you find yourself wearing a brown belt instead of the faded purple one that was turning white.

Four more years pass you by and before you know it, you have earned your bachelor degree and have plans of earning a master degree. In order to go to this college, you will continue to be unable to train because, this time, you are moving to an apartment and you won't be coming home for breaks. You break the news to your instructor and tell them that you will have to cease training with them in a couple months, as you are moving away. Eventually, those couple of months pass you by and you find yourself at your last class. You are a bit sad that this chapter is coming to an end, but happy that you had the experience. As the class comes to a close, you are surprised to learn that you are being promoted to black belt (you earn your first degree stripe down the road at this dojo). You rei and take the belt, take the old tried and true brown belt off that has been shaped and molded to fit your every move and put on this strange, new, stiff, awkward…. black belt.

Everyone comes over to congratulate you and they give you hugs or a pat on the back. Photographs are taken and you find yourself smiling, but the entire time you feel as if you are an imposter. You feel like you are wearing a belt you don't deserve and you can't help but feel like it is a going away present…. a consolation prize for putting in eight years of training, but not sticking it out any longer. You are dying to ask why they gave it to you, but you keep your mouth shut. To this day, you still consider yourself a brown belt and when you open up that old martial arts bag and see the black belt, you feel a bit resentful at the belt you only wore for about fifteen minutes. Instead, you pull out the brown belt and take a mental trip down memory lane….

Flash forward three years and you find yourself training in a new martial art (though similar) and you quickly find yourself throwing everything into it. You are immersing yourself to the point that you're on the verge of drowning… and you're loving every minute of it. You are at the dojo training four days a week and you are putting in at least 9.5 hours of mat time. You really find your place here and this is truly YOUR home. It is as if the dojo has just been waiting all these years for you to find it. Everyone becomes your extended family…. even the "frienemy"….

Like usual, you have your ups and downs and own internal struggles that you are dealing with, but you are as happy as a clam out there getting thrown about. Your presence is reliable and when the dojo has its lulls, you find yourself getting private or semiprivate lessons. The dojo even gives you scholarships to fully cover various seminars in order to ensure your attendance. At one point, you are even mistaken as a child of the instructor at a seminar because of "the way you interact" and when you later inform the instructor, they laugh and say "Well in a sense, you are!"

This dojo doesn't do testing very often…. maybe once a year. After training for two years, you find yourself a 4th kyu and are happy where you are. You aren't really big on ranking anyway, not after what happened to you previously. Everyone below shodan wears a white belt here and you find that you love blending in with every other white belt (at least until the action begins). Things are going good until you get an injury that forces you off the mat and when you come back, your ability to train is limited and you find yourself not being able to attend all the classes you could before because your body can't handle that amount of training yet. Just when you are the downhill side of healing, you find yourself applying for a new job; a great job. One that you wanted in the past, but it just didn't work out. You decide to interview for the job and when things start to get serious, you decide it is time to let your sensei know what is going on.

When it comes time to tell them, you find yourself having a hard time forming the words that are essentially saying "I am leaving." Once again, you find yourself breaking the news that you are moving away and will be unable to continue training with them. You can tell that they are sad, but they also wish you well. Eventually, you let them know that you got the job and that you will be moving in one month. Once the news gets out, it is as if time is going at warp speed and before you know it, you find yourself bowing out of your last class. Luckily, it is a small class and those who are present aren't going to make a big issue of it. Then, in a surprise move, you are called up front and you are promoted to 3rd kyu. You rei, thank them, take the certificate and shikko back to the line to finish bowing out.

After you change and say your goodbyes, you leave feeling as if you have now been scammed twice. You sarcastically think to yourself "At least I am still leaving as a white belt." as you walk to your car looking at the certificate with the same look a child has when you give them robitussin. You were content being a 4th kyu and you were more then happy to leave as one. As you get in the car, you can't help but contemplate about this habit you have of getting promoted on your last day at a dojo. So tell me, did you earn both of those ranks or were they just a nice honorary goodbye gift?

Eva Antonia 11-01-2011 11:12 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Hi,

I don't think the dojochos give away a honorary grading easily if the y wouldn't think it is technically merited. You mention that your second dojo does gradings not very frequently (same in my dojo). So maybe the sensei had you on your list for grading since a time and when you announced that you had to move away he realised he wouldn't have the opportunity to test you but that you merited the degree nevertheless. I got my fourth kyu that way...sensei was eaving the dojo due to health reasons but before handing it over he promoted all those he was no more able to test but thought should get the rank. I didn't feel worse for it, and for 3rd kyu it was again normal testing so as everyone else.

If the sensei just gives the honorary grade without thinking you really deserve it he would make bad publicity for your dojo, wouldn't he? You'd walk around with a grade you are not really up to, and people would question if the standard of the dojo is really that low. So why should he take that risk?

Best regards,

Eva

Pauliina Lievonen 11-01-2011 11:21 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Pretty much everyone that I know feels like they didn't deserve their black belt, however they got it, testing or not. I know I used to feel like that. I got over it. :D

How about some trust in your teachers' judgement. Yes, you didn't do a grading for the belt, but it's not unthinkable that they genuinely thought that you were already on that level, and the only thing missing was actually arranging a test. Which in the circumstances might have felt a bit superfluous to the teacher.

Another thought - if I had a student who trained as much and with as much enthusiasm as you sound like you did, I might well think "well, she's this close to the rank, I'm sure wherever she goes she's going to start training in something, so eventually she will have the skills for sure" and give the belt as indeed a parting gift, but with the confidence that in the furure, you're not going to make it look like a bad decision.

Basically, you can decide to feel resentful about it, or you can take it as a vote of confidence and decide to live up to that.

kvaak
Pauliina

Pauliina Lievonen 11-01-2011 11:23 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
And what Eva said. :D

kvaak
Pauliina

Janet Rosen 11-01-2011 12:07 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
You had long histories of trusting relationships with both your teachers. Do not let your own very natural self-doubt poison those histories by retrospective doubt and lack of trust in their judgment and integrity. We are all prone to "imposter" fantasies. Let your's go.

Richard Stevens 11-01-2011 12:23 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Ask the instructors who promoted you.

RED 11-01-2011 12:43 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
It's okay, you just know better than your instructor. ??

David Maidment 11-01-2011 04:43 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
If you had've tested for those grades at around the same time, do you think your sensei would have passed you? If so, they're just recognising that you won't have the opportunity to formally test, and are awarding you a belt in line with the skill that they already know you have.

But I totally get where you're coming from. Grades annoy me.

gregstec 11-01-2011 05:43 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Everything is relative, and martial art rank extremely so - question is, do you feel like you have been learning and progressing in your skills? From you post, it sounds like you are a relatively young adult and have just begun your journey in life - if so, you will continue to reach these types of plateaus in your personal, professional, and martial life - best advice I can give you is to accept what has transpired, learn from your accomplishments and mistakes, and do not be afraid to make more :)

Greg

robin_jet_alt 11-01-2011 06:25 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
I've had a similar experience, and I did talk about it with my teacher. His take on it was this.

1. Usually passing gradings ends up just being a formality anyway. People only attempt them once the teacher thinks they are ready, and if the teacher thinks you are ready, they will usually pass you no matter how badly you do on the day.

2. I think you are ready.

3. Now that you have it, make sure you keep training hard and prove that you've earned it.

I recently visited that dojo again after a year of training elsewhere, and the first thing sensei asked me was "do you wear your black belt, and do you feel like you deserve it?" and my honest answer was "yes". Training at a new dojo, I don't feel at all out of place with my black belt.

danielajames 11-01-2011 06:47 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Rank is well a ranking system. It places you in order of experience in your dojo, school and wider organisation if a part of one. Outside of these confines it has less significance. Thus in being granted your shodan or 3rd Kyu you might ask yourself is it consistent with the dojo, school, organisation within it was granted. The ranking here tells you at what level you represent this school as well as things like who is your junior and who is your senior which can be helpful in the smooth running of practice. As an exit statement the ranking enables you to continue your journey elsewhere as a representative of your system.

maybe your Shodan is the most difficult to swallow because the concept in the west is made out to be something much more than that you can do the basics and are now ready to learn the art. With the wider arts some Mcdojo's giving them out after a year and some jujitsu schools having 10yrs as a minimum to gain shodan the interpretation varies widely.

Like or not Shodan is a kind of informal perquisite to participating fully in a new dojo and at seminars and thus holding it a bit sooner, rather than spending years in the wilderness is an option. Being prepared again in a new school over an extended period of time might be advantageous or not.

My understanding of the gift of Shodan is that it is a common exit statement in university dojo in Japan. Following graduation a student is likely to move, take up a career, start family etc… and what follows may be sporadic training and breaks and possible extended breaks in training. Leaving with Shodan makes it much easier to pick up again and to slot in at an appropriate level in a new dojo wherever that may be (assuming similar standards/ or same organisation), rather than spending a few years of hard training to get there again with a new teacher (assuming that level of commitment is even possible).

Inner Turmoil 11-01-2011 07:52 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Thanks for your input everyone. You all have valid points and have given me something to think about. I am often told I am too hard on myself and often don't see myself in the same light others do. I have always been a believer in working for something. The harder I work to attain something, the more it means to me, so I guess I kind of feel cheated....

In the dojo I just left, the 3rd kyu test is a huge milestone. It is actually harder then the shodan test. A lot of people fail this test and I guess I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to push myself and experience this tough test.

Anyways, I am rambling. Thanks again everyone.

robin_jet_alt 11-01-2011 09:21 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Quote:

Anonymous User wrote: (Post 295759)
Thanks for your input everyone. You all have valid points and have given me something to think about. I am often told I am too hard on myself and often don't see myself in the same light others do. I have always been a believer in working for something. The harder I work to attain something, the more it means to me, so I guess I kind of feel cheated....

In the dojo I just left, the 3rd kyu test is a huge milestone. It is actually harder then the shodan test. A lot of people fail this test and I guess I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to push myself and experience this tough test.

Anyways, I am rambling. Thanks again everyone.

I certainly understand feeling cheated. I felt that way too for a while. Talking with sensei about it helped a lot though, and when I trained at other dojos and saw for myself that I really was at that level, I just accepted it. Still, it's the sort of thing that is hard to talk about when others are talking about their gradings.

Amir Krause 11-02-2011 05:18 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
A teacher should know the level of his students even without a test, the test and ranking are only a formality. A student who deserves a rank for his/her efforts, should get it. If the circumstances prohibit giving it to them after a test, so be it.

As stated above, rarely do students feel they deserve a rank, even with hard tests, long preperation periods and when some of the students are required to improve something in the next few weeks prior to getting their ranking (advantage of small orgainizations - teacher can fail/re-test you, no need for external visiting Shihan ...)

Amir

Lorien Lowe 12-04-2011 02:41 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Do you feel like these two respective senseis were the types to promote people who didn't deserve it? Do you think everyone else whom you saw promoted during the time that you trained didn't deserve the rank, or just you (hint: it's very unlikely that it's just you).

I understand the desire to push oneself to a test and feel like you've done the best that you can, but it wasn't your sensei who took that option from you in either case - it was your life circumstances and your physical limitations. Maybe, if you heal up someday, you can do a 'presentation' for your rank instead of a test

Mary Eastland 12-04-2011 01:35 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
I think it is about acceptance of what is. This is what happened. You can't change it. Why give it any thought? It is neither positive or negative. What matters is what happens on the mat. When you put on your belt are you in the humility of what has been given to you?

Anything else is just BS. My mind can make things difficult. Most often there is no problem.

SeiserL 12-05-2011 04:31 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
IMHO, honorary or earned, by recommendation or testing, if offered and given with respect it should be humble accepted.

Adam Huss 06-01-2012 09:55 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Meio Shodan....nothing wrong with that. If two different groups felt it appropriate to honor your tenure at their school, then I would say that is a positive sign you rated it. I wouldn't get too caught up on the mystique of the 'black belt.' All shodan indicates is you are a serious student of that art. If you feel like you are, which you seem to be, I wouldn't worry about it. Its better to be more concerned with your technique and personal development than belts and certificates. And congrats on the new job!

Henrypsim 06-03-2012 10:52 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Mr. Inner Turmoil, Rank is nothing more than just ego. It is what you learned that really counts. I have known shodans that can't even do a break fall. So, what is rank. Rank is only important if you are going to teach martial arts as a professional teacher. People tend to equate rank with ability hence it is important if you are going to open a dojo. There is no end in learning. Keep at it, Learn other styles if you have to but keep learning. Find satisfaction in what you learned and forget about rank. I think you will be happier.

JJF 06-04-2012 03:31 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
My former sensei was given his nidan by a shihan in a passing sentence during the conversation that took place while the whole group was at a restaurant during a seminar. No testing, no ceremony... just a pad on the shoulder.

In those days - that's how it was done. These days we have a new system. Our Shihan is not on this earth any more and we have an organisation that can hand out the grades, and it is almost always done by testing in front of a panel up until 4th dan. On the very rare occasion recommendation is used for the lower dan-levels.

My point is - that even though it can seem that way, dan grades are seldom given without good reason, and - as other have mentioned above - most people feel a little disappointed once they get them. It's not in any way a revelation and you don't really feel enlightened. The hard part for giving shodan is to give it to people that are ready to deal with this strange feeling and stick to their training.

Don't prove your sensei's wrong in this decision. Just accept the gesture and the added responsibility that comes with this diploma, and continue practicing with dedication.

And most importantly... have fun :)

JJ

On Hold 06-05-2012 04:48 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
That is a difficult place to be. I guess if it was me, and it is easy to say since I haven't ever been in that situation, I would decide to take it in the way it was best for me. Maybe taking the lesser of two evils?

hughrbeyer 06-05-2012 08:28 PM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
This is an old thread and I sure hope the OP is over it already, but FWIW...

Think about it from the point of view of the dojocho granting the belt. Would you want some goon out there representing your art with a belt he couldn't live up to? I sure wouldn't.

The only situation where I'd do this would be if I felt the student in question was already performing above his grade level. Then I might do this instead of some sort of formal test.

So take it that way and stop with the angst.

Mario Tobias 06-06-2012 05:55 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
In the end,

-What matters is the regular training on the mat.

-That the true enemy you have to overcome is yourself

-That the only person you have to please is yourself

-Overcoming your inner self-limitations is much more important than other's expectations of you as reflected in your rank

-Failure is acceptable no matter what rank you've achieved, what matters is how you respond

-Everything and everybody else is just noise

Henrypsim 06-06-2012 11:57 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
Quote:

Mario Tobias wrote: (Post 310496)
In the end,

-What matters is the regular training on the mat.

-That the true enemy you have to overcome is yourself

-That the only person you have to please is yourself

-Overcoming your inner self-limitations is much more important than other's expectations of you as reflected in your rank

-Failure is acceptable no matter what rank you've achieved, what matters is how you respond

-Everything and everybody else is just noise

AMEN!!

JLRonin 05-13-2013 11:15 AM

Re: Honorary or Earned???
 
I second the quote and the AMEN!


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