I was recently asked how it feels to be a Shodan – does it feel any different?
It does feel a bit different, now that I’m in the front row. But still I look back.
I look back on the days when I first started at this Dojo as a Brown Belt (3rd Kyu), after having taken such a long break. I was frustrated because I didn’t remember Karate to be particularly difficult, but so many things had changed: the stances were different than I was used to; I was now required to learn Japanese commands; basics were no longer in full stance, they were in High Kamae; Katas wouldn’t stick and YouTube was a constant source of information. I was trying to regain the knowledge I once had, and learning that Karate is a skill one acquires over a very long period of time; some make it look easy, but it certainly takes a lot of hard work to make it appear that way.
It took months before I felt any degree of confidence, and a year before the movements started to feel natural. Later still, Gradings would come and go and I wasn’t on the list; every class was frustrating for me and there were times I considered finding a better way to spend my time.
Gradually things were coming back to me, and I began to remember why I had once loved this sport so much. My name started to appear on grading lists (and I passed!), I stopped doubting myself and looking at others to see if I my technique was correct, or if I was in the right stance in a Kata (by the way, never do that – it causes doubt and you’re surely going to mess up). My fear of being alone on the floor with everyone watching began to fade, and finally I felt like I deserved to be standing in a senior position as 1st Kyu.
When my Shodan Grading was announced I immediately felt anxious, which soon turned into feelings of ‘lets just get this over with and move on!’ By the time my Grading night arrived I was ready, and when I entered the building I was a 1st Kyu who had trained her butt off for the opportunity to grade for Shodan and loved (almost) every minute of it.
I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold of sorts. I’m on the other side and can relax, learn new Katas and enjoy this wonderful sport without constantly thinking of the next grading.
So in short, yes it feels different. But I think that feeling has been slowly evolving over the years and didn’t just change on February 24 at 8:20pm.