So today I went to Karate like I do most Tuesdays. A pattern night. Sweet! A chance to showcase what I know and earn a stripe or two! For those who don’t go to ACMA, you need three stripes in order to qualify for grading. My orange belt is a little naked. Needs some red on it…
We start going through kata, from Shodan to Godan. I noted a few places I could tweak my own kata to be better and to understand the bunkai a little better. Looks great! Kyoshi is looking at me, I’m being my regular stellar self…oh yeah! I’m pumped. Looks great. Feels great. Hooahh!
We come to the end of class. Line up. I see the tape on the table in front of us. Here it comes! Improvement time!! We bow. We turn. We give each other a high five. We…walk out? Wait! No one got anything! Have we not shown how awesome we are? Have we not shown you we understand? What gives? What do we have to do to show you??
I walk out from the dojo and walk towards my car, reflecting on tonight’s lesson. Little did I know I had learned a lesson more valuable than “that is a hand turned this way so you can counter this attack.” No, my reflection taught me more than that.
What had I learned? Karate comes not from a book or a lesson or a video…your spirit cannot be taught. It must be developed over time. It must grow naturally. Did my pattern look great? Yes. Did my belt have anything to do with that? Does a stripe mean that I am better? No! The fighting spirit inside me tells me that I am better. That my skills are improving and that while I have a great deal to go, watching myself in the mirror, feeling my body execute each movement…that is what symbolizes growth and development.
What is around ones waist does not measure what is in ones spirit or ones heart. Karate is a life long journey. Sure it’s nice to get kudos for a job well done and to mark your improvement, but at the end of the day, I can look at myself and see that I am better today than I was yesterday. Promotions will come. Put your belt as far out of your mind as you can. It matters not. All that matters is the development of your spirit and that is something you show with how you live your life, not what is around your waist.
Train hard for the LOVE of Karate, for the love of the life long journey. Do not train for the belt, because a piece of fabric does not define your skill or anything else about you. Your character is a much better demonstration of your skill. Your spirit is a much better demonstration.
Concentrate on your skills and your spirit. Your belt will naturally change without you even noticing it.