On Your Journey

RJJ LogoThe discussion on ranking seems to come up quite bit. You have to understand that it is not a race; it doesn’t matter how long it takes you reach each new level. In a perfect world, ranks should be a baseline, a minimum set of skills or tools to be considered at a certain level. However, this is hard to do in the real world. People will all have different natural abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and different achievable levels.

Ranking can mean different things in different styles. It can be a measure of time, a measure of ability, a measure of katas learned. There can be differences even between schools in the same style. As I discussed in the last article; black belt is usually looked at as having learned the basics.

In Jukite, we separate out students based on ranking for training. As an instructor, I can tell in a quick glance, what I can generally expect out of you. I know what techniques you should know, how well you can take your falls, and how committed your attacks should be.

On Promotion

There are several things to keep in mind with promotions. First of all, I have said repeatedly, it is not a race. You don’t get a prize for getting promoted faster than someone else. You have to go through the levels, just as everyone who has come before you has done. I know it is common for students to compare their journey to someone else’s journey. This is not fair, it sets you up failure; you can only perform to your abilities.
Promotions are meant as a recognition of your hard work, but it is an external sign. Being promoted doesn’t change who you are, it is your actions, words, and deeds that define you. The only thing that really changes is how much we expect out of you.

The ranks are designed to get more challenging as you progress. We will push you more and more not only to see what you are made of, but to show you what you are made of. You are stronger than you know. You have to fail sometimes to succeed. I know I have learned as much, or more, from my struggles as I have from my successes. You have to want it, you have to keep striving for it.

   Success builds character, failure reveals it
~ Dave Checkett

Am I Ready?

I heard a student tell another student, don’t worry about promotions, just go train. If you feel you are ready to be promoted, don’t ask when you are going to be promoted. Instead, speak with instructor on what you need to work on.

Perhaps you are have a technique that needs improvement. You might need to work on your focus or projection. Are you paying attention in class or are you socializing? Do you execute your techniques with snap and form or are you sloppy or suffer ‘noodle arm’? We are not as objective when looking at ourselves; we naturally try to build up our strengths and downplay our weaknesses. Most instructors will be happy to watch and give you pointers, when they have the time to do so.

With a variety of instructors and an abundance of students, it is easy to overlook things. If one instructor works for with same group for a while, they get a feeling for where everyone in that group is. However, if they bounce around a lot, working with different groups every night, they might not have as clear of a picture. We do our best to keep track of where everyone is but sometimes we need a chance to review students.

The Instructors Role

As an instructor, it is our ‘job’ to guide you down the correct path. We have to put you in the position to succeed, yet allow you the opportunity to fail. We can’t do it all for you, we just have to aide you the best we can. Sometimes that is by letting you fall down.

   And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.
~ Thomas Wayne / Batman Begins

We have to help you learn from your mistakes. We have to provide you with caution and restraint when you can not learn it for yourself. We want to see you improve and sometimes we can help you with that by teaching you how to slow down. There is more to martial arts than just the techniques. You need to learn restraint, control, and confidence.

Finally we need to challenge you so you can learn how to question things. You need to learn what questions to ask. You need to learn how to find your truth. You need to learn what techniques work best for you. You have to understand how to modify things to work for your body. We can help you along the way, acting as examples and mentors but ultimately you are responsible for your own journey. Are you ready for the journey?

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About the Author

My name is Clayton Søby and I am a Nidan from Rushmore Jukite Ju-Jitsu. I started studying Jukite Ju-Jitsu in August 2001. I still train when I can. In the meantime, I keep busy writing a monthly column for the website and studying Aikido here in Maryland. I hope to see you in class whenever I can make it back to visit.