Sho Dan…Pass or Fail…One of the Best Lessons I have ever had”


By Dr. Andreas Syllaba

Ichi Kyu

I decided to challenge myself this "Urban Jungle (3/16)"Urban Jungle (3/16)"Urban Jungle (3/16)"Urban Jungle (3/16)"Urban Jungle (3/16)"Urban Jungle (3/16)year and attempt the coveted Black Belt from The Gi Yu Kyo Kai Dojo. I learned more in that hour about myself, than I had in years. Ironically, I have been learning about myself every time I come to this dojo…week in, week out.
On "failing". We all know that there is no guarantee in passing a rank promotion at our dojo. The higher the Kyu rank, the greater are the expectations regarding precision, timing, smoothness, proper distance from the opponent, taijutsu, and the "give and take " element of our kata.
I had the opportunity to challenge the Shodan or first degree black belt promotion. Clearly the expectations run to a significantly higher level for a number of reasons. I did not pass the test. I did pass the written test and survived the randori. After some self reflection, I lacked in several areas including smoothness, showcasing the crucial elements of the kata and targeting with receiving the attack and with execution of my strikes and overall taijutsu. I also felt I did poorly with the "give and take" or kaki heki parts of the kata. Part of the challenge was doing all of this with an uke I had not trained much with during preparation and a real size and agility mismatch. These are challenges, NOT excuses. For Shodan, the expectation is to adapt to any opponent. That takes all the methods of perfecting techniques that Sensei and our Dan level teachers repeatedly encourage us to do. I went in to the challenge knowing that I did not feel prepared enough for the kata. I went through the challenge anyway. Why you would ask? 1. I said I would, so I did, I kept my word to myself and others 2. To be uke for my testing partner 3. To challenge "test anxiety " 4. The challenge itself is part of training 5. The written and verbal feedback, which is invaluable. And through this I reaffirmed what I already knew about this dojo and about these warriors…I rediscovered that the encouragement after the test was amazing! Including several higher Dan level Sempai offering to specifically work on the kata with me. To help me achieve and help me grow.

In conclusion, this experience is like no other. Many other schools hold back brutally honest feedback to palliate the ego, likely driven by fear of losing paying students. Another possible reason could be the skill level of the leaders may be lacking, thus diluting precise feedback. All I know is The Gi Yu Dojo was the best thing I could have found for myself 4 years ago. I plan on obtaining my objectives and ultimately train in this warrior art for my entire life. I would rather fail a test challenge at The Gi Yu Dojo than obtain a black belt anywhere else.