Day 121: White Belt No Longer

WhiteBlackStripeBeltSee that?  That’s a white belt with a black stripe!   Yeah, boy, that means I passed my first promotion test tonight!

Do you know what else it means?  It means I am still the least skilled participant in my dojo, by several belts.  We had two new classmates join this session, a pair of 13-year olds.  Once again, however, they could kick my butt if it came down to a sparring match.  I’ve learned that the hard way.

I’ve also learned something else: a black belt is a white belt who never gave up.

Yes, it’s cheesy, but it applies to so much more than just karate.  To master any skill or trade, one has to be willing to put in the time and effort.  One must have dedication.  Most importantly, one must have the desire to get back up after every failure.  As the old adage goes:

Success is simply getting back up one more time than you’ve fallen.

I’ve taken quite a few shots the last few weeks when it comes to sparring.  I’m fine with my “katas” – a group of pre-determined moves you have to memorize – but when it comes to sparring, I’m heavy on my toes and awkward with my counter-attacks.  As such, I’ve been bested by two guys with brown belts (expected), got smoked by a woman with a green belt who weighs maybe half as much as I do, made to look silly by a 15-year old boy, and taken far too many kicks and punches from a 12-year old and 13-year old girl.  I’m 32.  I’m a tall, very athletic man in pretty good shape, and I’m the lowest on the totem pole.

One word: Humbling.

But I’ve stuck with it.  And now I am no longer a beginner.  I no longer get the funny looks from the kids in the “Little Dragons” class before mine.  I’m someone who belongs.  I may not be good, yet, but I’m trying.  And I’m not giving up.

That’s the secret.  Jimmy Valvano said it eloquently.


We all get there.  Whether it’s a bad day, bad hour, bad year or bad minute, rest assured that everyone has the moment of despair where we feel like throwing in the towel.  But we can’t.  The only way you lose is to give up.  If you always give it another shot, you’ve never lost…you’ve only taken a step towards succeeding.  Take enough steps, and soon you’ll find everything getting out of your way.  Success will be yours.  You’ll feel alive.  You will have fulfilled your promises to yourself.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to beat me up.  🙂

Day 78: “Pretty Good With the Bo Staff”


This is a gi (uniform).  I don't have one.

This is a gi (uniform). I don’t have one.

We busted out the bo staffs in karate class tonight.  NERVE WRACKING!  I’m the only student in class without a belt.

The next lowest belt in class is an 11-year old girl with a green belt!  In case you’re wondering, let’s just say that makes me the newbie by several years, despite having two decades of age on her.  I don’t even have a gi…I train in scrub pants and a long sleeved shirt.  Ergo, I have no business going up against my classmates when they have a weapon in their hands.

However, that left me with only two options.  One, sit it out.  Miss class.   Fail to learn something.  Not have any fun.

Or two, participate.  And when you participate against people swinging 7 foot hunks of wood in your direction, you better be fully participating!  No half-trying or going slow.  I needed to be focused, rely on my athletic skills, and react as best I could.


How’d I do?  Well, I made it out of class without any injuries!  Granted, we weren’t actually sparring with each other, but those things pack a punch even if you’re just practicing blocking one another.

“That’s all well and good, brosef, but what’s your point?”

My point is this: You can’t be afraid to try new things just because you might be the only one who doesn’t get it.

And this:  If you’re going to try something new, give it everything you’ve got.  Otherwise, you’ll end up getting hurt.

Oh, and I guess this:  If you’re new to the bo staff, don’t expect to have skills as sweet as Napoleon Dynamite.

Had I not tried, I wouldn’t have had fun.  Had I gone half-speed, I would have wound up with a bruise or three.  Had I gotten a bruise, I might not have tried it again.  I enjoyed the heck out of myself in class tonight.  I never would have learned that, in all honesty, my hand-eye coordination from all my years of other sports lend themselves very well to using a weapon.  I’m actually pretty good at it.  For a beginner.


You never know what you’ll discover when you try and try hard.

What are you failing to discover?

As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.
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