Yesterday, as we prepared for belt testing juniors, some of whom have trained long enough to earn a doctorate degree, I was asked by one of them if it is possible to fail belt testing. "Yes and no" was the answer, the usual cryptic Sensei business. On one hand, it is in-part my job to prepare young students, and to invite only those who have a reasonable chance to rise to the occasion. It's a rather public process, and I don't want to put young minds and hearts in a position to fail publicly. On the other hand, students need to be motivated, attend classes, and work hard. There needs to be a minimum standard. The solution to that has been the rare "conditional pass", which allows a student to save face by receiving the belt publicly, and then is privately tasked with re-presenting selected material two weeks later. The joke is that if they are not ready then, the karate police will come to their house at night, and take the belt. Silly, everyone knows there is no karate police... it's the karate sheriff!
Our dojo is celebrating its 14th birthday today, September 23rd, 2022! We have much to be grateful for; Surviving a pandemic as a school and business, our first black belt candidate who started with me 16 years ago, a new friend of the dojo- Sensei Margaret Izotov- a former student of mine from my old Honbu dojo who teaches the Little Heroes while growing her own karate school, an upcoming October trip for six of us to join one of my original black belts, Sensei Eva Steinwald, in Boise for a weekend of mountain karate training, and our wonderful community of families who make the dojo a place that buzzes in the most pleasant and meaningful of ways. This all reflects on the kanji that graces our dojo patch, which means "soshin" or "beginner's mind", and also means to practice gratitude. We have much to be grateful for.
Our theme for our 15th year of learning together will be another of our Dojo Kun character traits- Shidōhō. It means to lead by example with patience and kindness. As we all learned along the way, when it comes to teaching or parenting, what we do has greater impact than what we say. It can be a daily struggle as kids test our patience, while we juggle our complex adult lives. For me, what it really comes down to is that you have to teach out of love. When you walk through that door, you remind yourself why you are here, and how much impact your words and actions may have. You bow in and clear your mind. A mindset of love and kindness goes a long way, and students are more likely to forgive your mistakes when they know that you are coming from that place.
So in our 15th year, we'll continue to aim high, and bow low. We won't always hit the mark, but we'll be proud of our efforts, and we'll get back up and try again. We'll do so with a spirit of patience. As I said at belt testing yesterday, the three keys to long-term success in karate, and earning your black belt are:
1. Never quit.
2. Never quit.
3. Never quit.
Stick around, get back up, and success is inevitable.
With Gratitude for Your Support,