Adam Ciarlariello San Kyu

Gi Yu Honbu Dojo


A crackling fire sends embers to the darkening evening sky.  Some embers twist and turn; others run straight from the ground to the stars eager to lose their glow.  Although simple laws of motion dictate their ascension, their path is impossible to predict.  The sounds of laughter and children playing bring into focus the celebration of a brotherhood and one member’s passing of a momentous milestone on a greater journey.  It is Friday night and members of the GiYu Dojo gather at their sensei’s home with their Budo brothers from Atlanta to share stories, fill up on food and drink, and share in the community they have created. 

I left the fire and headed into the house.  As I entered the kitchen, it was apparent that this was the eye of the celebratory storm.  I was immediately greeted and engaged in conversation with various members of the group.  A Budo beer, congratulations to the new Yon Dan, and many other heart-felt conversations about training and life consumed the rest of the night.  It was about 1:00am when I decided that I needed to get some sleep.  The next day I would be participating in the San Kyu (green belt) rank test.  It is the first “test” to prove that you belong in the brotherhood – a display of not only skill but also of knowledge, courage, and perseverance.  I didn’t know exactly how I would do on my test.  I knew I wouldn’t be perfect.  But, I felt confident because of the guidance and support I had received from my teachers and training partners at the dojo in the recent months. 

On my walk home from the celebration, under the giant moon, I reflected on my brief journey with the dojo to this point.  I have been honored to meet another community of people with the desire and strength to do what is good and right.  I have been humbled by the teachers and the lessons they have taught me.  And, I am proud of the confidence that continues to grow inside me through work, focus, dedication, and the strength of the communities in which I belong. 

Many days pass in your life in which the memories fade quickly.  Many more are forgotten almost immediately but Saturday June 22, 2013 will not be one of those days for me.  It is the day I challenged my first rank test with the GiYu Dojo and succeeded. 

I began training with the GiYu Dojo about a year ago.  I have always been an active person - both in body and mind.  The dojo seemed to be a place where I could continue to grow in both of these facets.  For those who know me, I think they would agree that I can talk for days and am as tangential a person to have a conversation with as you will find.  Although this trait can be a strength when brainstorming or participating in other creative processes, it can often be perceived as a lack of focus.  Whether by design or necessity, I have been often vaulted into many leadership roles throughout my life.  Having a lack of focus is not a trait I want to convey.  So, it wasn’t a coincidence that I started at the dojo near the beginning of my new job as a principal at a local high school.  I greatly want to continue honing my leadership skills - I have coached, I have studied leadership, I have seen good and bad leadership modeled, and I know that leadership is characteristic that must be crafted. 

Leading, at least effective leadership, must be balanced with learning – the desire to better one’s self in areas where improvements are needed.  For me the dojo has become a place of personal improvement - listening, learning, reflecting, and focus.  In other parts of my life, I often have all the answers, but at the dojo, I want to ask questions and listen instead of giving solutions. I have tried to translate this goal into my training, and further, into my life.  My San Kyu test was a display of a year-long focus on this goal.  I wasn’t perfect but I challenged it with what I have learned through listening, reflection, and focus. 

After our San Kyu test, our sensei asked us to describe the experience in one word.  “Intense” was only word that came to mind.  We (Brittany, Patrick, and I) had displayed our skills for our rank material, taken a written test, and endured randori.  In the moment, with emotions high and in a state of physical exhaustion, “intense” seemed appropriate.  Now that I have had time to reflect, I believe the word came from deeper place.  It has been an intense journey; a journey that started well before the GiYu Dojo for me and one that will continue beyond.  As with many learning experiences, the lessons from the dojo have increased the “intensity” of everyday life – adding more color and meaning to work, home, friends, and family.  I am far from possessing the heightened sense of awareness that we ultimately strive for, but I feel that I have achieved a heightened sense of awareness that brings more appreciation to everyday things. 

Each member of the GiYu brotherhood has found their way to the dojo on different paths.  We all train for different and common reasons.  Twisting, turning, and moving upward, each shapes our own unique and unpredictable path.  I have truly enjoyed my first full year of training at the dojo.  I look forward to the lessons and challenges that lie ahead in training and in life.  Domo arigato gozaimasu.


Adam Ciarlariello  6.26.2013