Before I come to the dan exam, not only do I have to practice hard and consistently but I also have to write two papers. One is on the history of karate, which I think I’m going to expand on and include the history of women in karate, as that’s of personal interest to me and hopefully inspiring to young girls who might consider taking up the life-changing sport.

I also have to write one on manner. At first glance the paper on manner might seem boring and easy but the more I think about what karate manner is and what it means to the athlete the more important this ‘little’ subject is.

We teach manner all the time. Is it just bowing when you enter on the mat or when you leave? Is it just used when you begin the class? Is it only used when you greet your instructor? Of course not. Manner permeates all parts of the student’s karate life.

Manner equates to not just how you conduct yourself within the dojo but the respect that you give to your instructor, yourself and your opponent.  For example, of course you bow to your opponent before you begin a technique, you’re showing respect. But aren’t you also respecting them and their abilities when you bow, keeping your eyes on them? Aren’t you also showing respect to them when you don’t turn your back? Aren’t you respecting yourself when you train hard, sweating bullets, repeating the same small little technique over and over again until you get it right?

You’re respecting yourself, your instructor who is training you and the great masters before them that devised the katas, training drills to better teach the lowly students how to reach great heights with karate.

Manner is shown through so many things, acknowledging your Sempais, your Sensei and your Shihan. It is also shown through hard work. Practice. Repetitive drills until you master one tiny little technique. Manner begins with the bow and never ends…

Only Two Months

Wow, I just realized that its December already. Okay, yes, I knew it was December first yesterday but it just didn’t seem to connect to me until right now that its DECEMBER now. That means its a month closer to my exam.  Wow!

I’m so excited and so nervous all at the same time. In my mind I visualize the pages of a calendar whipping off in the wind like in some old movie until at last the  calendar stops in February with a huge red circle around the date.

Its a funny thing about goals. Sometimes you work so hard towards them that you never notice when they sneak right up on you like a stealth ninja in the night. There you are standing on the cusp of your goal and you didn’t even see it as it loomed larger and larger on the horizon.

I know that I can’t think about the test, I just have to think about each day’s training. Tiny baby steps that combine together like a mighty leap forward. Kind of like someone saying, “wow, they became a star overnight”. Where were the fans of the actor when they were working hard, practicing, honing their art just waiting for their big break. So it is with a martial artist. Lots of sweat and sore muscles, repetition and practice all leading up to the black belt.

Truth is I wouldn’t have skipped one day of practice along the way. I’ve learned a lot and have so much more to learn before I can with confidence say “I’m a black belt”.