Brown Belt Basics
As a young Sempei, or brown belt karate student, I went through a frustrating stage every brown belt goes through. At the two-year mark, I wanted to know when I would be nominated for black belt testing. I felt I had mastered the curriculum, could teach it and represent it to lower ranks. I could translate the Japanese language and body movements into reality, deconstruct the purpose of the movements and utilize the weapons, sparing and tournament aspects of our program.
My sensei read me like a book.
During a session that had me go through a series of pre-meditated movements to demonstrate techniques, called kata, he stood in front of me, looked me in the eye and side kicked the wind out of me. The whole class stopped, I recovered to one knee and he empathetically said seven words: “Rotate your pivot foot, master the basics.”
Without full rotation of the pivot foot, the one that plants and turns, my hips were not angled properly and my hands lifted, leaving my core exposed. The principle was taught as part of the white belt curriculum and showed me that I was not ready for a black belt.
Six months later, he then made me lead basics in the kids’ class where I was teaching the importance of the pivot. One year later, I was put up for testing in front of our black belts in a grueling exam. That extra year at brown allowed me to fail before failure could no longer be acceptable. It made me better in weak areas, before building higher. My foundation was stronger, giving me the resistance to survive in the black belt world. He made sure I was past due and over-ripened for the next chapter.
Master the basics. Patiently over-ripen your students. Let them fail while it is safe to do so.
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