I am a big fan of the Karate by Jesse website (www.karatebyjesse.com), a blog by Jesse Enkamp that covers his view views on training, karate and martial arts in general. Although he has no affiliation with Shoto Budo, I've incorporated some of his advice into my own training and when teaching our junior members.
During a recent video Q&A session, one person asked what was most important to him. Is it belts and trophies? Development? Something else entirely? That sounds like a good question to put to the BMAC family.
For me, it is the ongoing development of my skills, the level of fitness and the camaraderie of the club. Over the years, I have been able to learn things that I never thought I would be able to do. Not only that but when learning something new, there is still that light bulb moment when I start to get the hang of it.
I like the major contribution Shoto Budo makes to my fitness. As a forty something man, it helps me to maintain a good level of fitness, whilst complimenting the other exercise I do (running, hill walking, skating, weights and so on). In recent weeks as my stamina and endurance have improved, I actually have been asking Hugh for a run through of the breakfall kata. Now THAT is something I never expected!
Lastly the camaraderie of the club and wider organisation is wonderful. I'm sure this is not unique to BMAC and many martial arts clubs are just like this, but it is something to be cherished. In particular, I like how we all offer each other advice and guidance to help improve. There's very little "belt ego", we all train with each other, ask questions, comment on technique and give advice, regardless of belt colour and as a result everybody improves.
So it's that ongoing development that is important to me. Why that and not the belts? After all, this blog started out as me training for my First Dan, something I still want to attain. Do I still want that black belt? Of course I do but actually I feel that last year, I became too fixated on it and lost sight of why I was training.
I had several niggling injuries so my training was either curtailed or put on hold. Coming back from injury, I was tentative so therefore I wasn't getting quality training and in turn I became a bit disillusioned with things. The black belt seemed further than ever so what was the point? It was very much a "woe is me" moment.
I took a couple of months off and came back refreshed, focussing on the quality of the training. The result - I'm greatly enjoying myself again and have regained that feeling of ongoing development. This helped me to recognise that the black belt will come as a by-product of good training, rather than being the goal itself. Having recognised this, I am a lot more comfortable with my progress than I was 12 months ago.
That is what matters most to me and next time out, we'll take a look at what matters most to my club mates. Stay tuned!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.