I think Charles Dickens described it best in A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times…It was the worst of times….”
As we continue to work through a year of a life ending and life changing pandemic, we can reflect on what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained. We’ve learned a lot and hopefully the lessons of this past year will stay with us.
One of the things we’ve lost is time spent with Kaicho and Sonomi San. We’ve lost the camaraderie and instruction that I’ve, personally, looked forward to for the last 30+ years. We’ve also gained the ability to direct our own training and really individualize and personalize it.
I’ve been reflecting on the last few years of camps that we’ve attended. For the most part, 99% of the time in fact, the courtesy and protocol were wonderful. No question about it. Respect, courtesy and demeanor were outstanding so when there was a breach of respect toward seniors, Kaicho or even Hanshi Sei it was noticeable because it was an aberration. There is a saying “Rei Ni Awari” which refers to “beginning and ending with respect”. When we don’t practice courtesy in the dojo it’s more challenging to be routinely and easily courteous at camps, seminars or mini-camps. Remember, “what you practice is what you get”. Practice courtesy and respect on a daily basis and when in doubt, do the most respectful thing you can think of. The camps will be easy because you will do what is natural to you.
It’s important to be aware that Kaicho, Hanshi Sei and Sonomi San are our guests when they’re here in the U. S. They feel obligated to be good guests and to attempt to grant our requests. Knowing this, as we do, we should not request things that are inappropriate. Don’t ask them to do things which are not healthy, safe or within the bounds of propriety. It’s VERY obvious that we shouldn’t ask for rank or promotions. We must wait patiently until one of our seniors BELIEVE we are ready. I haven’t seen this type of request granted but it puts undue pressure on these fine people.
Speaking of rank, rank is always an issue. Some of us always feel under ranked, been in grade too long or sometimes over ranked.
Rank and upward mobility in our association is really a fairly simple thing. What do we need to do? As my good friend Shipes Hanshi says, just “play the game”. Simple huh?
Actually it IS pretty simple. All you need to do is find out what game we’re playing, figure out the rules, play by the rules and then persevere.
So what’s the game? We support Grand Master, Kaicho and the Kenshin Kan/Matsumura Seito system and organization.
What are the rules?
1: Learn the curriculum. Train in and teach the curriculum. I also believe that you can add things to the curriculum that support the core beliefs and concepts.
2: Get a dojo charter. Pay your dues and test fees.
3: Show up at camps, seminars and other training opportunities.
4: Show respect to your Sensei, Senpai and Kohai.
5: Train hard with intelligence and consistency.
6: If you feel under ranked work on your patience. If you feel over ranked, work diligently and consistently to earn your rank.
AND … persevere. You want to be successful? You want to be a Master? You want a cool gi, a cool obi, a cool certificate? Persevere!
In my mind it’s that simple. I know we can complicate it and we do, but it really is that simple.
I believe that in the last few years we have seen more and loftier promotions then ever before in the history of the AOSKKF/OSMKKF. There are several reasons that this occurred. Arguably the most important one is the perseverance and hard work of all those folks.
Looking at the first several rows, Hanshi sees the same faces he has seen for at least the last 30 + years. Perseverance and loyalty. Nintei. Playing the game by the rules year after year. That’s the key.
As we talk about enduring over the years, I won’t mention names as to not embarrass folks, but many of the folks in those first few rows are on the floor training the entire camp despite injuries, pain, illness, joint replacements and other forms of sacrifice. They earned that rank with every pain, every effort, every day.
I am, personally, awed and humbled by the honor bestowed upon all of us by Hanshi Sei and Kaicho. We are in historic times and how do we repay them? We endure, we train, we teach and we earn the honor. We work harder with more thoughtfulness. We maintain a “beginner’s mind” and we play by the rules and persevere.
I believe we also have made sacrifices to attend these training opportunities with our Okinawan masters and need to continue. The training itself is the reward, but visibility or “face time” is a major factor in your growth.
As Zig Ziglar says, “get up, dress up and show up”. That’s a key to success and “martial arts mastery”.As I end this lesson, #65 since I began counting, and probably #500 since I began writing them, I’d like to encourage you to “live” karate, not just train it as a sport. Train faithfully and precisely. Train with thought and heart and train with perseverance.
I also encourage us all to learn study and live the way of Bushido. Here are some of the precepts written out for your contemplation.
Rectitude or Justice
- To do what is right even when no one is looking
- Right reason
- The spirit of daring and bearing
- Love for others
Veracity and Sincerity
- Bushi no ichi gon (the word of a Samurai)
- Personal dignity
- To make up for errors and slights
I will end this lesson here. I appreciate those few of you who have commented on these lessons over the years. I do look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Live well and train hard. Sayonara!