“Hey!” It was Manfred, we hadn’t seen him for ages, he passed Shodan several years ago and had trained only sporadically since, but he was a happy guy and it was always pleasant to see him.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“Not bad, fathered another rugrat since I saw you last, got promoted at work and been working out in the garage when I had the time, how’s things with you?”
“Yeah, OK…..” I hadn’t the time or the heart to even begin to tell him how much study and change he had missed.
“Thought I’d get back to it and get my Nidan,” he said cheerily.
“Ha ha ha ha …. Right…..” I sad jokingly…. and then realised that he was serious.
Well, I don’t know what planet he was living on but I could not see any way that he could possibly even dream that after passing Shodan, a couple of lessons over a period of years and a bit of garage training “when he could find the time” could possibly prepare him for nidan. I was dumbstruck, I made my excuses and began warming up.
Whilst waiting for Sensei most of us were warming up, but a group were listening to Manfred regale them with stories and jokes, he was certainly a good storyteller but we were here to train. Then Sensei appeared.
He saw Manfred and went directly over to him, shook his hand and welcomed him back, his eyes just rested momentarily on Manfred’s Black Belt.
The class lined up, bowed in and began with some Chi Kung exercises to warm up, Manfred went through the movements but lacked the concentration required. We then went on to basics.
The class generally moved fairly easily and skilfully, apart from Manfred who was desperately trying to replace skill with effort. He was noisy, snorting, awkward and clumsy but obviously proud of his efforts…. Sensei tried to sensitively give him a little guidance.
We were then split into groups for Kata practice each of us in the group had to perform the Kata in front of the others so that we could compare and comment. Manfred was in my group. His Kata was abysmal, he had forgotten movements, mixed others together and tore into the form with the maximum enthusiasm and very little skill….
Sensei had asked us to mark each others Kata out of ten, five would be a pass mark for the next grade, comments had to be brief like “stances”, “focus”, “timing” etc. I marked Manfred’s Kata at two and as Sensei passed he marked at zero, qualifying his mark as Manfred had “missed out moves” and that he couldn’t expect any different as he had “been away for a long time”….. Manfred looked crestfallen and then angry.
“But I’ve been training at home” he stated angrily.
“Training on your own at home without proper instruction is meaningless as you will only continuously repeat your mistakes” said Sensei as kindly as possible.
“But I want to tidy up my Kata so that I can take my second Dan” blurted out Manfred.
Sensei stopped and fixed with Manfred with an icy stare, he physically wilted.
“We are always pleased to see any student who enters this Dojo with the intention of studying the Martial Arts properly, he said evenly, grades do not come into the equation. As you have not studied, note I use the word “studied” not “trained”, for some time, it would have been correct etiquette for you enter as a white belt and wait for me to fix your current grade.
Your Kata does not need “tidying”, like your attitude, it requires a total restructure. I suggest that you do some serious rethinking before you enter this Dojo again”. With that Sensei strode off to the next group.
“I didn’t come here to be insulted!” said Manfred angrily.
“Neither did Sensei”, said one of the other Dan grades.
“Why where do you usually go”, said one of the others.
“Manfred, I said, have you ever heard of the expression “invest in loss”?
“No, what do you mean?”
“Invest in loss” is a famous Martial Arts saying that could be applied here, learn from a humbling experience, use the knowledge gained here to become a better Martial Artist. Training on your own has given you a false impression of your abilities, you can see that you need to take some serious instruction, Sensei is telling you how to proceed in the kindliest way possible, listen to him.”
“But he virtually insulted me!” he wailed.
“You insulted him” said one of the others coldly.
“Manfred, listen, what Sensei was doing was to inform you of the correct way to proceed. Come back wearing a white belt, invest in loss, learn from the experience, be man enough to admit your mistake and do things the right way. This way you will earn the respect of both Sensei and everyone else here. Don’t allow arrogance to rule you…..”
“I might just as well give up…” said Manfred throwing away any chance he ever had.