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Old 06-13-2002, 11:48 AM   #7
Bruce Baker
Dojo: LBI Aikikai/LBI ,NJ
Location: Barnegaat, NJ
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 893
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Honorary, or for real?

There are two storys I have for this occasion, and one is about Muhammed Ali the boxer, the other about an elderly blackbelt who is in his eightys.

One of the stories that George Dillman relates when he gets a new group at a seminar is his sparring days when he was a sparring/training partner of Muhammed Ali. Of course Ali had a few different people to train with but George is no more than five feet eight whild Ali is six feet four with longer reach and weight advantage. Still, as a young man, George trains and spars with Ali as he is advancing in the Dan ranks in his particular martial art. When the time came to home Ali, George Dillman gave him a first dan black belt in his style of Karate. Many people would ask how Ali could qualify to earning a black belt, but George would simple say," You get in the ring with Ali in his prime and tell me he doesn't deserve a black belt!"

Story number two.

I met an elder citizen in Piscataway, NJ ( an old indian name in case you are wondering) who had just earned his black belt after eight years of constantly attending karate classes.

To me, he didn't look like he could with stand even a marginal assault from an attacker, and most days, that is probably true. At least one time, he was so distracted with the great number of people at the seminar, that he didn't notice his belt had come undone, so I tightened it as we talked. Indeed, he was having a "Senior Moment" which is what the dazed wandering and lack of attention is referred to these days. All the same, this very old man had gone through the same testing, the same training, and the same sparring (although I do believe most of it was modified to not injure his body with showed advanced age and brittleness) to earn his prized black belt!

I guess in days of old, he would have taken out to the woods with his blanket and possessions, left to sit for a while, then killed and buried in the forest with sadness, tears, and the ten day mourning period for a loved one who dies. But our society is not the old society of living off the land in bark huts, is it?

So, the point of both stories is that true champions are found in our hearts, and sometimes their flaws are more apparent as they grow older and the grasp of reality/ or the ability to properly think starts to slip away.

The honorary belts are to show our appreciation, but even as they extole the virtues of these people we still must live with their excentricitys and foibles? Go figure?

Being able to teach Aikido is really not in the arena of Honorary, but maybe there was something else there ... either the new student or the honorary blackbelt did not grasp what each was trying to say so a personality problem was more the cause than the private lesson.

But if it was a "Senior Moment" ... then the senior members of the class should be aware of how to handle these moments and the instructor should make this person aware of how they want to handle students or have a procedure to make this person aware of his/her "Senior Moment".

There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge to be gained from Seniors, sometimes by our handling of their weak moments gives us new insight into ourselves and their lives. Don't let your anger cloud your judgement because you think seniors should be a better person than yourself. They are just human beings who have had a little more time to make mistakes than you.

If I was you, I would talk this situation out between the instructor and senior members, and if there was an improper handling of a new student, make a plan to signal or alert the teacher, or have a general plan for two students to assist in being demonstrators as the honorary black belt explains and instructs. That way there are people to assist in catching a new student who is more likely to take falls too hard, or the ukemi the wrong way.

Hey, it works for gymnastics and tumbling, and it is the best way to teach ukemi with new students who don't fall correctly too.

Always consider both sides ... even if the other side is wrong.
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