Re: Brown Belt Syndrome
As a personal note of experience, being one of the brown belts that had disappeared from the mat for a while, I wanted to touch on one thing.
Yes, life gets in the way, but everyone will have that. It happens. We deal with it.
But for Brown Belts (and perhaps for new Shodans as well?) there is a lot of pressure.
Speaking for me personally, I hold the rank of Shodan in high regard. I know many people consider it to be a "first step" and a rank indicating "ready to start learning" etc., and you can say that all day, everyday till you are blue in the face. HOWEVER, I personally hold the rank of Shodan in very high regard, I place a lot of responsilbity on that rank, I expect a certain amount of quality from anyone with a black belt and believe that any Dan rank is deserving of respect.
Because of that viewpoint, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure in training up for and the eventual testing for Shodan. Furthermore, if I personally feel that I am not ready for the rank, or not worthy, I will not test for it! All due respect for Riggs Sensei, who has taught me so much and guided my aikido path from day one, but I have a an opinion on Shodan and I'll not test until I'm ready and THEN ask for his blessing to test... and wait for that blessing.
Lan Powers, brother-in-arms and all around good guy, has passed me in rank for two reasons: First and Foremost... he is better than I am. His skill in aikido is definitly there! He was a near natural in aikido due to years of martial training and I give him a lot of credit. He's good. He's modest and humble. He can plant anyone on their butt and seriously hurt them... but he'd much rather shake your hand! He's a good, good, good guy... and he's a skilled martial artist.
The second reason Lan has passed me in rank (I had joined aikido 6 months before he did) is because I got the hell out of his way! Lan is a generous fellow. He caught up to me and wanted to go through the ranks together, brother with brother. As much as I appreciated the thought and gesture, I felt extream pressure to "keep up" knowing full well that I never would be able to. Am I beating myself up? Maybe a little. But at the same time, I did NOT want to hold him back! I did not want him to feel he had to wait on me, or help me along, in order for us to remain ranked together.
Thus... I disappeared for a short time. Just long enough to push him on ahead of me. Underhanded? Maybe. Sneaky? Darn right. But it took the pressure off of me, pressure I didn't want or need.
I'm not in aikido for rank. I'm in it to learn, to become a capable martial artist and enjoy the Way that is Aikido. My way isn't for everyone, and may even be looked down upon by some. Sorry, that's just the way of things for me.
So, to anyone out there with wayward 1st kyu's, ask them if they are feeling the pressure. And when they say "no," ask them again. Everyone feels SOME pressure. But if it is keeping them off the mat, find a way to take the pressure off and get them back ON the mat.
In the end, we all do this because we enjoy it. If we aren't enjoying it, then what is the point?