Journey and pressure of a Shodan Ho

I haven’t posted much about martial arts recently, so I guess i best get back to it, even though I have been thinking alot about it still, just haven’t put the words onto the blog where it belongs.

My main focus is trying to do a little bit of martial art training everyday, trying to become the  blackbelt I believe I could become. Of course doing stupid things and injuring myself still happen, but if I continue to learn from them I can only come back stronger.

I definitely feel more of a pressure being a Shodan ho (probationary blackbelt) than I was expecting. I mean I knew that it was going to be a hard year of training, but the expectation in some classes of feeling like I should know more, and not wanting to make mistakes in front of newer people is a weight upon my shoulders. A similar feeling to when I was a low grade in Jitsu 6 years ago, and I stopped training for a few months, and people below me were suddenly higher, I felt that I couldn’t cope with it.

7 years ago I started my martial arts journey after playing rugby and did Jitsu, five years ago on november 9th I would of started my karate journey. When I started Jitsu, i did the classes because I wanted to, not because I enjoyed them. I tried taekwondo at the time, and really enjoyed it, but knew I wasn’t designed for it. Drifted in and out of several martial arts, never fitting in.

Then I discovered Goju Ryu. my first lesson scared the crap out of me, looking back as I have matured since then it seems those simple things should never of scared me, but it was outside my comfort zone. It had everything i wanted realism, jitsu, striking and kata a form  to practice at home.

I instantly fell in love with the art, and kept going, the only difference to me and those other beginners who gave up, was that I kept going, going through the highs and lows, through the fear you get whenever you enter the dojo, it was inspiring to hear last summer school that even one of the toughest nidans still gets scared everytime she goes to the dojo, its facing your inner demons.

Jitsu i made one or two friends, who kept me going but they left and I felt very alone and isolated, I didn’t i in with them, I’m use to being like a lone wolf in rugby and here. It happened everywhere I went. In Goju ryu it was different, they seem to except you for who you are, we all have bizarre sense of humour and it was just a click, but I didn’t make any friends straight away. the higher grades kept to themselves, and the lower grades didn’t have the same passion, just something they did. unlike jitsu, I used this to motivate myself to keep going, hitting a deep and dark depression it was the only thing keeping me going on many occasions.

It wasn’t until the following summer of my first year that I made my first friend at karate, who is pretty much now my best friend. He was older, young at heart had experience in karate before, and came back after a ten year gap, but with our backgrounds and fighting spirit, our jovial attitude our friendship was born in the heat of kumite, testing each other and trusting each other, we push each other harder than we will push others. the first of several friends.

Another extremely close friend I made was back when I was a purple belt, and had to face an orange belt (3 grades lower) who was simply awesome, so much power and skill in man much smaller relative to me, when faced with this in jitsu , I cracked and couldn’t cope. In karate I smiled, and we had an instant friendship in  heart of kumtie, I knew the more I trained with this phenom the better I will become.

There are many more stories of friendship to be told, most of them from the heart of kumite, where you have to let go of your ego, if I let it get in my way I never would of made such awesome mates.

What I liked about being brown belt was being inbetween, I could talk to both higher and lower belts, and make novices feel really welcome, I even helped two prepare for their last grading. Now as a blackbelt, it is like an officer at sea, they can be friendly with the lower belts but that respect and status is something that can separate the two, and is something I will miss when I heal up (again!) and train at the Union with some new students. the pressure of being a probationary blackbelt will make the sessions much more mentally challenging.

But if I continue to keep training everyday, spar as often as I can, and plan out strategies, analysis the best way of me fighting, and stay humble, this will be like making a sword in  a great furnace. Where you test out if the metal is cracked and the potential sword needs throwing away. Or if the heat and intensity makes it stronger.


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