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Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 11:22 pm
Well, this week has gotten off to a VERY interesting start, thanks to a pair of phone calls I've had.

In the last two days, I've spoken to my sensei from Nashville and to my grandmaster -- yours truly has been promoted!

On the one hand, I'm excited, pleased, and honored!

On the other hand...

I used to look at people with high ranks and see the "benefits" of having those ranks: the prestige, etc. The further up the ladder I go, the more I realize that those things have very little to do with life at those ranks. What those ranks really mean is an ever-increasing amount of responsibility and hard work.

When I was a kyu rank (below black belt), if I didn't feel like going to class that night, I simply didn't go. I might take my wife out to dinner instead, or work on a personal project at home, or just sit on the couch and read a book or watch TV.

As I moved into the upper kyu ranks, I realized two things. First, that I rarely wanted to skip class, and second, that I felt an obligation not to do so unless I had a better reason than, "But I don't wanna!" I realized that the lower ranks were looking to me as a role model (both for techniques and for behaviors), and that the teacher was watching me to see if I was of the caliber to move into the higher ranks. (I realized later that he'd been watching me all along, but that was later.)

When I became an assistant instructor, I formally took on certain responsibilities for the classes. And of course, it became even more important that my knowledge and execution of technique, forms, etc was correct. When my teacher here in Memphis had to step down for medical reasons, that left me running the school. Now ALL of the decisions were on MY shoulders, from training methods to administration. I'd known intellectually that this would be the case, but knowing it and experiencing it are two VERY different things!

Then there is the matter of titles. Sifu and Sensei I was fine with. But Master?

When the school in Memphis joined our current affiliation, our head instructor was informed that at his current rank, his proper title was Master instead of Sensei. At the time, I didn't fully appreciate the wisdom of his reaction to that:

"They can't call me Master -- people will expect me to know stuff!"

He was mostly joking.


To some people, titles are just words, just labels that don't really mean anything. To me (and I believe to him as well, though I've never specifically asked) they are standards to be lived up to.

Every. Single. Day.

That's a tall order, especially when the titles start getting fancier.

I've been running "30 Day Challenges" since January of this year, pushing myself and my students to -- if I do say so myself -- some fairly impressive levels. So far, I've managed to meet all of them except one. Now, my Nashville teacher and my grandmaster have dropped a Challenge on me, and one with much more than a 30-day scope.

Tonight, I had a nice dinner to celebrate... and tomorrow, I'm going to roll my sleeves up and get to work, to make sure I can rise to this Challenge.

Thanks for listening to me ramble. Okay, we've talked the talk... now it's time to go walk the walk.


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