The five days between passing my 1st Dan and the first session back in Plymouth were probably among the longest 5 days of my life. I just couldn’t wait to train. Little did I know what I was in for!
1st Kyu was a blast. All the prestige of being one of the most senior Kyu grades in the club but having enough lee way to be able to get things wrong and “get away with it”.
One of the first things that hit me on the other side of that Dan grade threshold was how much the margin for error shrinks.
My first few sessions back after my grading I felt like a beginner again, and to be perfectly honest I still do. I feel like a big fish from a small pond suddenly released out into the wild. The pressure to perform surprisingly comes as much from the Kyu grades as anywhere else. Now that I have filled into the ranks of those illustrious Dan grades it becomes apparent just how much I am perceived to know compared to how much I actually think I know.My techniques are far from perfect.
The first session was definitely a shock. After watching the other Dan grades perform their part in the opening and closing ray for so long I was taken back to find myself so confused about what I should be doing. All of a sudden I found myself that bit further forward than I was used to, still waiting for seiza to be called before kneeling and almost completely forgetting when to bow.
The learning curve seems to have become so steep I could probably climb it. Which is surreal considering how most of what I am actually picking up now is really small things, but make the world of difference.
The way I learn in training has also changed. I am learning as much by observing techniques, both my own and other peoples, as I am by being shown what to do by a senior grade.
I noticed a real difference at courses as well. The only way I could think to describe it is that there is more room to play. You can do a technique a bit differently, intentionally or not, and no one pulls you up for doing the technique wrong.
There is a much greater sense of an individual’s Aikido and their own unique style of doing things.
Techniques can be explored in much greater depth. To paraphrase Tre’s response when I was talking to her about this,
“you no longer need to prove your worth, you have already proven yourself by getting to the point that you are at (a Dan grade).”
I am fully aware that I now represent the club more than I ever have previously, but still it feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
I am proud of everything I have achieved in getting my Dan grade and it becomes scarily apparent that this is only the beginning of a very long journey that still lies ahead. I look forward to each new step I take along this path and can’t wait to continue my exploration along it.