It always amazes me, that no matter how long one trains or how far one progresses up the ranks in their chosen martial art, how much further we still have to go. This fact was driven home to me quite deeply this summer during Fuku Soke’s visit to Michigan for the 3rd Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Michigan Taikai.
During our morning training session together on Monday, July 11, Fuku Soke took me through an intensive (and extensive) review of all the material he had instructed me in over the last 12 years or so, covering all Reishiki (etiquette) and 20 Kata in the space of about 3 hours. At the end of the training session, Fuku Soke expressed to me how happy he was with my progress on certain points he had previously challenged me to improve, and gave me a very detailed list of the points I need to continue to keep working on. The feeling I had at that moment was one of profound joy, not in my own progress or achievements, but in the fact that Fuku Soke himself was quite pleased that I had made visible progress in my techniques since we last trained together. I felt that I had made him proud. That feeling, however, can be like a double-edged sword…
On Thursday, July 14 (the day of the Taikai), the time came for me to step up to the line and perform the required material for my Nanadan (7th Degree) Examination. I walked into the testing arena with only one goal: to do my absolute best and to make Fuku Soke proud of the time and energies he had invested in my training.
Then, as I began my testing sequence, certain elements of my performance did not go quite as I had hoped and I began to feel that I was performing at a less than adequate level and not setting a good example for the other Deshi. Knowing that we are all our own worst critics, as I left the floor after the test, my spirits were low and I was deeply disappointed with myself and my performance, to say the least. I felt that the sense of pride Fuku Soke had gained as the result of our session on Monday had completely vanished.
What is the lesson in all this? For me, it is simply that no matter how far we come (or think we have come), we still have a long journey ahead of us, and many enemies within to fight every day of our lives. Ultimately, we begin as a student and remain a student no matter how much we progress. Our goal, first and foremost, should always be to apply ourselves totally and completely to our training and to do our best, making our Instructor proud but not forgetting that all of us can and do make mistakes…we are all only human after all.