But, here's the thing...
Sensei recently asked me to sit for a grading and I’d be lying if I said part of me didn’t get a little excited.
In truth, I'd love some more time. But, I do feel incredibly privileged to have been asked to grade under Sensei. It’s an amazing opportunity and one I know I just can't turn down.
So, while it’s easy to sit here and claim that grades aren’t important, it’s obvious that there’s still something in it.
Perhaps it’s not so much the dan-grade but the grading process that makes it special. For me, gradings have always been something very different to competition or competitive sport. In my teens I raced nationally in triathlon and cross-country running but these events never really compared to the physical and mental ordeal of our gradings. And, while puking and being pummeled isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun time, there really is ‘something’ in being booted right out of your comfort zone and pushed to your absolute limits.
I remember having the odd experience once amid countless repetitions of push-ups at the end of a grading where for a brief moment, the pain disappeared, my head cleared, and everything became effortless. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. But, I felt that for a brief moment at least, I had clarity. Maybe it was just the endorphins. But then, it’s always possible I caught a small glimpse of what some might call ‘satori’ – a ‘little awakening’, one of those brief moments of enlightenment you occasionally hear talked about in training.
Whatever it was, I’ve always felt that the physical, emotional and spiritual trial of gradings has forced me to grow as a person (if only in growing my pain threshold). And through them, I’ve come to learn a little about myself that I didn’t know. In the end, pass or fail, the mere fact I survived and gave it everything is I think what makes it special.
Recently I heard a friend say, “it’s up to you how hard you push yourself”. Very true. I suppose the next stage is to learn how to give everything in normal training. Gradings are great challenges but maybe the greater challenge is fighting the urge to tune out and go through the motions. Imagine how much we’d improve if we treated all trainings like gradings.