Shodan & High School
Yesterday afternoon, I was training with my children at home and the topic of progress was discussed; My 18 year old daughter (whom some of you know) is reluctantly preparing for her shodan test. Yes, reluctantly. Two years ago, she had all requirements needed and was ready then. She informed me that she was absolutely happy with wearing a brown belt, so I didn’t push the issue for fear of pushing her away. The last couple of years, she’s trained and continued to grow in skill, so i brought it up to her again in March; I told her that I would really like for her to test for her black belt in front of Takamiyagi Sensei when he visits in October. Again she balked, stating that she was ‘nervous’.
Ok, that’s fine, let’s change subjects, I said.
So, are you excited to be a senior in high school? She flashed a huge grin, Yes, I’m SO excited!
i replied: “Yes, you certainly have worked hard over the past 12 years, and you’ve earned the right to graduate; are you nervous about graduation? ”
No, she replied..maybe a little, but I’m just excited, and can’t wait! I’ve worked hard, stayed up late so many nights doing assignments, and I’m ready to graduate.
“But, you love being a senior, right “? Yes sir.
“So, why not just tell your teachers, counselors, and principles that you are happy right where you are?” She looked at me like I was crazy. “Surely your teachers would understand, right?” No-sir. That’s crazy talk. I’ve already earned enough credits to graduate anyways. “So, because you already meet the requirements to graduate, you think you should move up, and move on to the next step of your education? ”
She looked at me in silence as her mind began to register my longest analogy ever. She grinned, and her face became a little red.
‘I see what you did there, dad.”
My daughter began her formal basic education and her martial arts training as a 6 year old girl. After 12 years of study, hard work, and intensive practice, she is now ready to take the next step in both area, for she has now acquired her basic level of education in both school and the dojo.
Some students walk in the dojo craving that black belt from the first day, but they don’t want to put in the work. Others work quietly and shun promotion and recognition.
There is no ‘1st Dan’ in karate. Sho-Dan means “beginning level.” You aren’t a master of anything except yourself. By shodan, you will have mastered the discipline to work hard and learn the basics required to begin your next step. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Don’t be afraid of the shodan..the beginning level black belt. It is simply the next step after 1-kyu. It’s a way for your teacher to recognize that you’ve worked hard and learned the basics. Embrace it, accept it, and continue training.