We're close, right? If I tell you something that is a secret, do you promise not to share? Seriously, some of my closest friends don’t even know about this. Promise?
For the past twenty months I have been taking karate. Kempo, to be exact.
I wouldn't say that I am good at it, nor would I say that I am bad at it. I guess I am just “at it.” To be clear, I’m closer to Kung Fu Panda than I am Kung Fu.
I don’t think that I am achieving at very rapid pace, but every couple of months, there they are anyway, handing me a new belt. They say it's because of the techniques I have mastered, but I assure you, if you saw me perform the term "master" would not be what comes to mind. Iam convinced they just give me different colored belts in an effort to color coordinate with my latest bruises.
Once you are an “intermediate belt” you're required to fight for forty-five minutes after every class, whether you want to or not. The belief is that learning karate is not enough, you have to apply it in real life situations. They call it sparring, I call it reliving my childhood, as every night someone bigger, more experienced, and stronger channels his inner Bruce Lee on me.
Because of this, I wear my belt as a badge of honor, as I have earned every bit of it, bruise by bruise.
I think karate and the martial arts have something here. I think we should award teachers belts. And like karate, they would be awarded not just for the skills you have mastered but for the bruises you have earned, emotional and physical. Teaching is a beat down and although the bruises are not as visible, they are every bit as painful as they are real.
Like sparring, for teachers it's not enough to learn about learning, you have to get into a classroom and do educational hand to hand combat to learn how to really teach. If you want to survive, you have to be able to take AND deliver a blow, day after day, month after month, year after year.
In this way, your belt is as much a sign of high achievement as it is a statement of battle scars. It as much about pain as it is performance. You are a black belt, not just because of what you know, but because of what you have survived. Then one day, you find yourself as Mr. Miyagi to someone's Daniel-san.
On a side note...
My wife recently asked me if I was learning anything in karate. More specifically, she wanted to know if after all this time I felt that I was better able to defend myselffaced with a confrontation. My response, "If you attack me, with advance warning, very slowly, in just the right way, and wait for me to remember the correct sequence to react in, I am fairly confident I could take you.”
The problem is, my wife is not likely to be my attacker. If some guy sucker punches me… Well, I’m going down.