Festival is coming soon and with it the ability to test for upper ranks. I always find it interesting to see the different attitudes about belt ranking and promotions. There are as many perspectives as there are people but I’ve noticed three, categories if you will, of how people see their rank.
The first, and to be blunt, the one that concerns me most is the anniversary mentality. This is the attitude that two years have passed and it is time for another rank like it is some kind of birthday card. This is regardless of how many classes they’ve had with a teacher. Time guidelines were not established as the primary qualification for testing and should not be the basis of promotion just for showing up.
The next is where most people fit in. The rank is seen as a well-deserved reward for all the effort they put in. Setting goals, working toward them, overcoming obstacles, and finally succeeding are an excellent path to achievement and growth if the motivation is to learn the art and not just get the rank. Our brains are wired to want rewards so focus is needed to keep your training focused on the training.
The last category is rare and much more Japanese like in its focus. Rank is seen as an obligation that must be earned every day. Training is directed not only forward toward new material but backward at concepts from previous ranks to be sure they are understood and grow with you. This back filling has multiple benefits of not only making sure you truly represent your rank but in the discoveries, that are still hiding in your ‘lower’ rank material. Things you were not mature enough to see when you first went through the material.
This last mindset takes the curriculum from a simple to-do-list of kata and frees it to what it was always meant to be, a tool of enlightenment.
Shiken Haramitsu Daikomyo