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JJF 04-01-2005 02:34 AM

Now what?
 
Hi everybody

Last Friday I tested for shodan and I Just thought I would share this experience with all of you. Not that I think it is of much interest to anybody but it will do me good to tell you about it ;). It might however help some young newbie with BB-syndrome into realizing what this whole thing feels like.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's step back to the early 80's where a young scrawny kid first heard about a karate-club opening for business in his schools gym. At that time I had of course seen 'Karate Kid' and I was (as so many others) breathtaken by its debth (OK - it WAS the 80's remember?). Accompanied by a couple of friends I went to the gym on the night were there would be an introduction and decided to sign up. For five years I practiced and progressed through the colored belts. In the end I left the town with a brown belt and the black piece of cloth within reasonable grasp.

Unfortunately I could not continue my karate in the new town I went to. There was a dojo of the right style but they were very big on sparring so the one time I went there I got my sorry bum severely beaten. Needless to say I didn't go back. It simply wasn't what I was looking for. I then discovered a kendo-dojo! I had for a long time been fascinated by the cool equipment and especially the Japanese sword, so I threw myself into this new art with all the enthusiasm a young man can show. After two years - one with VERY intense training - I was a 2. kyu in kendo and a 3. kyu in Iaido. Then rather suddenly It dawned upon me that kendo simply isn't my game. The whole competition-aspect was putting me of, and I decided to quit it. At this time I was beginning to think that I would be the eternal 'almost-BB'. The type of guy that simply cannot see something to the end.

About a year later I decided to join an aikido-dojo. I was immediately hooked. After a few years I however had to take a break to start working, start a family and at the same time trying to finish my masters. A rather stupid decision in hindsight, but alas - that was what I did.

January 2000 - the date escapes me - but I was on my way home from job rather late one evening and I was sitting in the bus pondering my life since I was pushing the big 30. At this time it hit me like a bolt of lightning. NOW was the time. I would get back into Aikido and I would NOT stop again. Then started a long and hard struggle. Both my kids have been sick quite a few times - as toddlers often are. My job ate a lot of my time in some periods and finally I was still struggling with my unfinished masters. All these disturbing elements forced me to be very thankful for each and every training session that I could attend. Sometimes only two or three times in a month - sometimes just as many in a week. The benefit of this is that I have developed the ability to work very hard on getting the maximum benefit from each session.

Slowly I worked my way up through the kyu grades until finally last year in December I suddenly felt the time was ripe to ask my sensei if I could grade for shodan at the annual easter seminar. He said yes!

Immediately I started working on a program for the grading. I picked an uke and we began practicing my program now and then. The last two weeks before the seminar should be the climax of my preparations but then all hell broke loose. First my assignments at work exploded and I had to put in extra time and effort leaving me all drained and tired each evening. Next my kids got the fever and for 10 days took turns of being so ill that we had to keep them at home. My wife took her part of the work, but I also had to spend quite a few days home. I shall spare you the details but finally it became Monday again. Both the kids were okay, My holiday had started so - in short: I could leave for the seminar.

I was happy - and i delved into the practice enjoying it immensely. Then - Tuesday morning the accident happened. One of the visiting Japanese aiki-ka's accidentally struck me right in the forehead with his bokken during ken-tai-ken. Very hard and point first - kind of like a tsuki. I was out blank for a short time - a few seconds I think - and when I came to the blood was pouring down my face. A doctor helped me clean the wound which fortunately enough didn't require stitches. I was patched up and told to stay off the mat for the remainder of the session. That afternoon I skipped practice but the next morning I went in there again. Iaido went fine - ken-tai-ken and ken-tai-jo went fine but at the very first tachiwaza technique (shihonage) I realized that I was suffering of a slight concussion. I left the mad dizzy, a wee bit nauseous and VERY disappointed. Once again I skipped the afternoon and Thursday I once again tried to do iaido and weapons work, but I had to stay away from tachiwaza. Many people were nice enough to tell me horrible stories of bursting capillaries in the brain, strokes etc. following from blows to the head... Needless to say I was a bit sad at this time. I saw the grading slip away from me and tried to come to terms with the fact that maybe I would have to wait another year.

Thursday afternoon I was feeling much better - I still took it slowly - avoiding most of the tachiwaza and all of the high falls, and then - I was called up as uke for sensei. What to do? How do you say no to a Japanese 7. dan? you don't. I went in there and I must admit it was less than enjoyable. Especially since I knew he usually use the same uke twice. After the technique my head ached a bit again and I hurried off the mat. For the next technique sensei look around in dismay since I had eloped and finally chose another uke. I later persuaded a Japanese speaking sensei to explain to sensei why I had left the mat.

Friday morning I was feeling much better - sensei was obviously not angry with me and used me twice as uke for very soft techniques with no high falls and each time asked me if it would be okay. It was - I felt good. After the morning practice I ate a light lunch and put on a fresh gi. Then the big moment arrived. Suddenly I was actually sitting there on the mat next to my uke trying to remember which technique I was planning on doing first. We were told to start and I simply bowed - got up - started - and forgot all about the many people watching. I enjoyed myself and loved the fact that I was actually doing this. Then suddenly it was over. I sat down and waited through a load of 2. and 3. dan gradings until it was time to get the verdict. At this time I almost didn't care anymore. I was so relieved that everything in the end fell into place, and the sensei from my dojo had already told me that he like what I did which was the highest praise I could get. Usually he's not big on compliments ;)

Then came my turn. Two minutes with a couple of 5. Dans telling me that in my next grading they would like to see a little more variety, but apart from that it was good. So - yes - I had passed the grading.

Finally - more than 20 years after I first walked into a dojo - I had actually earned the much coveted black belt. I was proud and happy but the strongest feeling inside me was a big hollow empty space. I had reached my goal but in that instant I realized that this was just a day like any other and that Saturday morning practice I would be just the same person and my aikido would still be developing towards a goal I will probably never reach.

That was my shodan tale. Long and windy, but maybe - just maybe - someone will enjoy reading it. To all of you out there reaching for your shodan I offer this advice: just go ahead with you practice and try to find the joy in each session in the dojo. That is the true gift of practicing aikido - not receiving the right to wear a piece of black cloth.

Sincerely

kocakb 04-01-2005 03:00 AM

Re: Now what?
 
congratulations :) I graded to the 1.st Kyu on monday and have 1-1,5 year in front of me to be a shodan. During the period, I will have a marriage, have to continue-finish my PhD thesis and working to earn my life is as usual. Hope they will not effect my practises and I can continue aikido...
congrats again, and wish you success in your future trainings and life.
yours aiki,
Bülent

akiy 04-01-2005 08:18 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Hi Jørgen,

Congratulations! Thanks, too, for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

Now, get back to training.

-- Jun

senshincenter 04-01-2005 08:41 AM

Re: Now what?
 
That was great Jorgen - thanks for sharing.
david

JJF 04-04-2005 01:12 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Hi guys!

Thank's for your replies. Glad you liked it - and yes Jun! I will... got back yesterday. Just another day in the dojo :D

BTW I really think that the BB makes my hip look hmm.. wider.... a good reason to wear a hakama.... ;)

Karen Wolek 04-04-2005 07:42 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Congratulations!!!!

ElizabethCastor 04-04-2005 06:00 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Congratulations on your accomplishment! (I thought that black was supposed to make you look slimmer :p oh well!)

I want you to know that as a 5. kyu your story really inspires me and reminds me what/where my goals should focus ---> daily practice.

As a young(er) akidoka the progression you and Bülent describe kind of affirms a little thought that I have had a bunch lately: that there will come a time (or multiple times) where I will be challenged or called to decide what I will/not sacrifice in my life. Lately lessons in other areas have been dropped from a busy schedule but when friends and family suggested I cut back on my aikido practice I had to say "whoa!"

Thanks for helping me to see and appreciate that choice.

Have fun, sempai. Arigato

eyrie 04-04-2005 07:35 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Congrats Jørgen, indeed, now what? Neil Ohlenkamp wrote an excellent article on "What is a black belt?" http://judoinfo.com/bb.htm. Highly recommended reading.

maikerus 04-04-2005 10:22 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Jørgen,

Congratulations. And thank-you for the tale. It was very refreshing...don't lose the wonder as you begin again.

Osu!

--Michael

JLRonin 05-10-2013 07:04 PM

Re: Now what?
 
cudos. I hear you.

JP3 05-11-2013 05:53 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Shodan is merely a door.

A door well worth walking through, mind, but still only a door. There exists a long road afterwards, and it twists and turns every which way as you try to follow it.

JJF 05-12-2013 12:18 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Wow... I wonder how this thread got resurrected.. :) I actually forgot about it entirely. Quite fun seeing it again.

I considered correcting some of the bad spelling, but decided to leave it as is.

Since then I have moved to a different part of Denmark, started my own dojo, graded for nidan as well as both shodan and nidan in Aiki-toho, had my first student grade as far as 2. kyu (he's still practicing), been to Japan about five times and am now slowly starting to prepare for 3. dan in Aikido.. scheduled for some time during 2014 or 2015.

The rest haven't changed much though. Aikido is still an ever growing part of my life. Post-shodan is great.. actually (once you get past the void of realizing the vast number of things you still don't know) it's much better than the first year.

I guess it's like playing an instrument. Just producing sound is great in the beginning. Later you enjoy being able to carry a tune or start playing with other people but once you develop your skill to a level where the more subtle aspects of music come into play (pun intended) you find new ways to enjoy it.

Today I went to the dojo for a session with our other sensei. We did almost an hour of ukemi practice just to explore different ways of holding your hand, using the muscles in the abdomen, rolling across the should etc etc. It was great.

To everybody out there who are in the kyu grades or just passed shodan: if you ever feel discouraged by the periods where nothing works, or if you feel like there is no way you will ever get the hang of it.. yes you are right.. you will never learn everything, but stick to it.. .there is so much to fun to have and so many thing to enjoy as you progress and start develop your own aikido.

ken king 05-13-2013 08:30 AM

Re: Now what?
 
This was a great read for me! I started my Aikido training almost 13 years ago and am still rocking the 5th kyu status. Between college, deployments, relocations and general bad luck with missing gradings I have almost given up on the quest for shodan. It's posts like these that help me remember what it's all about and that the journey is more important than the destination. Although, some day I do hope to retire my old thread bare piece of white cloth!

JLRonin 05-13-2013 09:29 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Kenneth San,
give my regards to Sensei Freeman.
let him know its from Senseis Juan Alicea and Julio Ruiz from the old Puerto Rico Yorku Kan Aikikai.

Janet Rosen 05-14-2013 12:09 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Julio Ruiz wrote: (Post 326611)
Kenneth San,
give my regards to Sensei Freeman.
let him know its from Senseis Juan Alicea and Julio Ruiz from the old Puerto Rico Yorku Kan Aikikai.

I smiled reading this, once again contemplating the "it's a small world" aspect of aikido and the myriad personal connections stretching across years and miles.

Susan Dalton 05-23-2013 12:41 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote: (Post 326613)
I smiled reading this, once again contemplating the "it's a small world" aspect of aikido and the myriad personal connections stretching across years and miles.

Which, I think, is one of the most beautiful parts of aikido--how all those ripples spread and intersect. I enjoyed reading this whole thread again.
Susan

Stephen Nichol 07-10-2013 12:48 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: (Post 326534)
To everybody out there who are in the kyu grades or just passed shodan: if you ever feel discouraged by the periods where nothing works, or if you feel like there is no way you will ever get the hang of it.. yes you are right.. you will never learn everything, but stick to it.. .there is so much to fun to have and so many thing to enjoy as you progress and start develop your own aikido.

This happens to me about once each year so far. I get into a period of realizing that just when I thought I was starting to get a good understanding of 'what it is I am supposed to be doing'... I go to seminar and learn something 'different' about it or my own Sensei shows another aspect of it and I find myself back to square one feeling like 'I cannot understand and make it work' and 'will I ever make it work' and then... I remember... just relax and have fun with it.. hopefully many more years to enjoy the training and the rest of my life in exploring it and so things get better and I feel like I have learned how 'simple' it all really is.. just not 'easy'. ;)

JJF 07-10-2013 02:29 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Kenneth King wrote: (Post 326577)
This was a great read for me! I started my Aikido training almost 13 years ago and am still rocking the 5th kyu status. Between college, deployments, relocations and general bad luck with missing gradings I have almost given up on the quest for shodan. It's posts like these that help me remember what it's all about and that the journey is more important than the destination. Although, some day I do hope to retire my old thread bare piece of white cloth!

Well... Kenneth.. if you've been practicing for 13 years you should by now have the basis of Aikido down pretty well.. come practice with me for a couple of months and I guarantee I'll grade you at least 4. kyu ;)

The strange thing is that the coin has two sides. Sticking to it for the sheer joy of it is good, but forcing oneself to aim at the next grading once in a while helps put everything learned into perspective. I have a friend in Japan who practices kyudo in a very traditional dojo where they don't use the grading system. He's really frustrated since he would love to get a chance to test his skill and get that 'pat on the back' that one gets with every new grade. If handled correctly it is a great boost both before and after the grading. Also it contains a great chance to grow with the responsibility that comes with new grades.

I encourage my students to grade once they are ready. Formal requirements must be in order, and my personal judgement must be that they will be ready by the time the grading is scheduled. The higher the grade - the more I expect them to learn during preparation for the grading.

Seems to me that you haven't had the fortune of staying in the same dojo for long enough for a sensei to take an interest in your progress and forcing you to go that extra mile needed before a grading. Hope you will find it soon.

Great day to you all

JJ

ken king 07-10-2013 10:24 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Hi Jorgen, thanks for the post! Now that my military service is done and life is more stable I'm hoping to stick around here for a while. However in the year I've lived in St. Louis I've already switched dojo's, guess somethings just never change ;p

odudog 07-10-2013 06:18 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Stephen Nichol wrote: (Post 327985)
This happens to me about once each year so far. I get into a period of realizing that just when I thought I was starting to get a good understanding of 'what it is I am supposed to be doing'... I go to seminar and learn something 'different' about it or my own Sensei shows another aspect of it and I find myself back to square one feeling like 'I cannot understand and make it work' and 'will I ever make it work' and then... I remember... just relax and have fun with it.. hopefully many more years to enjoy the training and the rest of my life in exploring it and so things get better and I feel like I have learned how 'simple' it all really is.. just not 'easy'. ;)

I always teach that aikido is a lasagna. There are many layers.

jurasketu 07-10-2013 08:42 PM

Re: Now what?
 
At least once a week, I think, "I'm getting it. I'm getting it.". Then I show up to class and after the first technique I conclude, "Nope. I'm not."

Dave Gallagher 08-21-2013 10:07 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Kenneth King wrote: (Post 327995)
Hi Jorgen, thanks for the post! Now that my military service is done and life is more stable I'm hoping to stick around here for a while. However in the year I've lived in St. Louis I've already switched dojo's, guess somethings just never change ;p

You did the right thing. I hope to be back to the Aikikai in September. I tore a calf muscle doing Kendo and have not trained since then. Before that my knee went out after a Karate class.
Aikido is much safer.

john2054 10-06-2013 03:01 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Congratulations Jorgen. After years of martial dabbling i finally touched red in judo and yellow in Aikido earlier this year. So trust me I know the good feeling! Then last month i finally won the visa for my wife and step daughter to live with me, so now i really feel like i'm on a roll!

John.

sakumeikan 10-06-2013 04:46 PM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Kenneth King wrote: (Post 326577)
This was a great read for me! I started my Aikido training almost 13 years ago and am still rocking the 5th kyu status. Between college, deployments, relocations and general bad luck with missing gradings I have almost given up on the quest for shodan. It's posts like these that help me remember what it's all about and that the journey is more important than the destination. Although, some day I do hope to retire my old thread bare piece of white cloth!

Ken ,
13 years and still a5th Kyu? Whats the matter with your teachers ? Regardles of whether you are available for tests or not, the fact is you are not a beginner. Your teachers should make allowances for your situation and grade you accordingly.By my reckoning if things remain the same , you might just get Dan grade after 52 years[13 years per grade ].Maybe the Dan grading would comprise of you doing irimi tenkan with a zimmer?Cheers, Joe.

ken king 10-16-2013 11:01 AM

Re: Now what?
 
Quote:

Joe Curran wrote: (Post 330651)
Ken ,
13 years and still a5th Kyu? Whats the matter with your teachers ? Regardles of whether you are available for tests or not, the fact is you're not a beginner. Your teachers should make allowances for your situation and grade you accordingly.By my reckoning if things remain the same , you might just get Dan grade after 52 years[13 years per grade ].Maybe the Dan grading would comprise of you doing irimi tenkan with a zimmer?Cheers, Joe.

Well, the last place I trained at was a commercial dojo and I think the guy just wanted to squeeze some extra testing fees and made me start back at 8th kyu since I wasn't from him organization. The sensei at non profit dojo I'm at now hasn't mentioned testing at all in the almost 6 months I've been there. Overall, I'm not too worried about it. I get to train, that's all that really matters to me :)


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