IP Hash: 9b5dc359
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?