Monday, May 1, 2017

To the Nth Degree

So this happened:

That makes me a 2nd Degree Black Belt under my teacher.  I'm pretty happy about the promotion, as it's been a long time coming and it's nice to be recognized for the work I've put in in the past few years.

I've been thinking about "degrees" and ranks at the black belt level, as a result.

The truth is, being a Dayang Dalawa today doesn't mean I suck any less than I did, say, a few months ago.  My progression from "My god, who gave that woman a stick?!?!?" to "Hey, she's not too terrible on occasion" is long and slow and something that isn't always clear to me.

I don't even know what makes me 2nd degree now, versus, say, last fall or even last year.  I do know I'm "better" than I was when I was promoted to Dayang Isa, but I just can't explain specifically how that's true, other than my vision is better and I understand more than I did.

I'm a terrible judge of my own progress.  I have a hard time recognizing what I'm really good at, and honestly assessing where I need improvement. I suspect this is a problem for all of us.

This is why we need teachers, people.  And peers who can judge us appropriately.   Good feedback - both positive and negative - is important if we're going to grow.

In any case, like my teacher, I'm not going to have my belt embroidered with any rank designation. It's plain and it's going to stay that way.  I know many other styles and organizations have the tradition of belt embroidery, and if that's your thing, go for it.  All I know is, every picture I've seen of the founder of Modern Arnis where he's wearing his black belt... it's plain and looks just like mine (even though I study Presas Arnis, Modern Arnis is the base of the style and comprises about 70% of what we do).

Exhibit A.

I like that.

Of course, the natural thing would be to ask, "How do I get to Dayang Tatlo (3rd Degree Black Belt)?"  My teacher hasn't written any guidelines, and right now, your guess is as good as mine.

Is achieving the next rank important?  Does it change anything? 

I don't know.

I'm going to keep training regardless of what comes next and whether I'm recognized for it or not.  I have a lot of work to do and progress to make and that's what really matters.  Some day I may, or may not, be Dayang Tatlo in my base style.  Ranks after that?  Dude, I started late - dunno if I'll live long enough for that!

I also have my kobudo black belt test coming, probably at the end of the year, and just like I did in Arnis, my plan is to keep studying over there beyond that rank.

But... is Weapons Master a thing?  Just... um, asking for a friend.

Maybe this rank, and those that follow after, aren't to tell ME anything at all.   Maybe they're just for other people.  It's a shortcut that says, "This person's teacher thinks they're such-and-such level of skill in this martial arts style" and nothing more than that.

Either way, it means I keep working at what I do, to get better, to understand it more, and to help others along the way.

So have you achieved ranks after first black?  What did it mean to you?  What changed?  Let me know in the comments!