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