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August 14, 2006 [ More archived home pages here ]

The Surprise Promotion

Today's song is Tin Man by America, released in 1974.

It was a Saturday on August 14, 1976. I was attending my martial arts class as a practicing Blue Belt at the time. One rule in our Dojo was that when it was time to start class exactly at Noon, the highest ranking student in the class was to take charge of all the students and begin the meeting with exercises, strenuous exercises.

Often I was the student in-charge when a meeting started. It was the senior student's responsibility to lead effectively until a higher-ranking student or Sensei arrived to take over that responsibility. I enjoyed those many opportunities to practice leadership and head-up the exercise routines.

I don't remember how long I led the class that day. I came so regularly to class that the majority of those days are no longer distinguishable in my memory.

I do remember that Sensei arrived, entered the class, and stopped the class to make an announcement. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out a Green Belt. Handing it to me he said, "Don, it's time you started wearing this." I was stunned, I mentioned that I hadn't yet competed for this rank. Sensei responded, "All that you have been doing these past months has entitled you to this. Put it on." So I did.

Each time a student advanced in rank, the expectations and responsibilities for that individual increased correspondingly. Continual improvement of skills and knowledge accompanied such promotions. For a Green Belt, the katas became harder and more complex to perform properly with power. The teaching of more advanced techniques to Blue Belt ranked students intensified. More emphasis on internal-strength became part of the student's progress.

Near the end of almost every class, the sparring matches began. Sensei would pair students with comparable skill-level most of the time. The exception to this habit was when a student advanced in rank to Green Belt or beyond.

As a Green Belt, I was immediately paired with Brown Belts. Sparring at that level is very tough. Being knocked down a lot, comes with the territory. So does being struck a lot harder and more often.

Sensei was always the final sparring partner for the day for a newly advanced student. He welcomed me to Green Belt level with a hit I can still feel today. After the class session ended, we all joined-in together bragging and laughing about the day's activities. We were all good friends, almost family in so many ways.

I wasn't yet in the upper echelon of Sensei's school. I would need become a Purple Belt and then a Third Brown Belt before I was allowed into the inner sanctum. I worked hard to reach those levels, and beyond. More on those stories in the time to come.


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