Friday, June 26, 2009

The "Black Belt" Sydnrome

I got a grade yesterday. *yay* When the Sensei Shiva announced “9th Kyu”, (after a display of what I thought was a foolish but heart felt improvisation to a technique) the depth of what had happened hadn’t hit me. In fact way before I could absorb what he meant, the entire class started clapping. I did read that the school of Bujinkan had 9 levels before a black belt but I didn’t even know they were called the 9kyu’s. I had to ask people and read up on it to actually find out the various grades and the syllabus for grading (yes just like any school we have a curriculum too). Kyū ranks progress from the larger number to smaller. It starts from the 9th kyū and goes all the way up to the 1st kyū before you reach the black belt.

The episode got me thinking. It made me wonder if getting a rank or a grade was that important. I remember when I was younger; the children in my friend circle would be excited at the thought of a “black belt”. As kids we would only wear black belts with our “Gi” or costume for functions and even fancy dress competitions! I also remember commercial schools often used to put up advertisements saying, “get your black-belt,” as a sign up feature. I’ve heard it even ‘ups’ your bargaining power when applying for a job and increases your market value during marriage! Hehehe ! *grin*

The fascination to get a grade or a black belt is something which every martial artiste has. But to what extent that influences your actions is something to be thought about. I firmly believe that one should train because you love the art and want to improve, not because you want a black belt. Getting a black belt should not be an eventuality of martial arts training. One should do it for love of the art and the want to learn self defense. Just showing up in class doesn’t make one deserve a rank.
A story I’ve heard is that in ancient times students received the white-belt, and that was the only belt they ever received. It had turned frayed and became a black belt because of repeated use and handling over many years.
The disservice the colored rank system does to some students (in many other schools and dojos) is that it gives them the impression that with each rank they are gradually becoming more skilled. It makes them believe they are gaining expertise regardless of how much they may or may not have trained while the truth may be far away.

This Reminds me of a Sanskrit Sloka - “Karmanye Va Adhikarasthe, Maa Phaleshu Kathachana"U have the right only to the action, and not for the fruit."
And that does not mean one should stay idle. One has to do what he has to do - and not wait for the results. When the rain clouds gather, rain will fall automatically. I guess a lesson learnt is that one has to keep going from one action to another, from one activity of activity, from one moment to another without wishing for the result or trying to control the outcome.

Maybe I feel this way because I truly don’t know the value of the 9thKyu. And sometimes when you don’t know the value of something it comes to you easily. When you know the value, you end up wanting it, and then you don’t get it that easily. Maybe the trick is to know its value and at the same time not want it?

I don’t know why I was granted a grade so quickly into my joining the school. Maybe someday ill find out. I personally believe I was way better on the day I started than I am today, because I knew less than and accepted more openly. Lol
For now I’m just going to enjoy the feeling of being a “green belt”. And since all enjoyment is momentary, I’ll leave you with a line my sensei left me with and it still resonates in my being.
“Congrats Anjaan, you have been graded the 9thKyu, now you have to deserve it!!”


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