paul3030 wrote:Good day everyone.
My sensei told me that he wants to promote me to shodan, but I don't feel I am ready for it. My sensei is Japanese and he thinks real training starts at shodan. But I also train at couple different dojos, where there are people who know more judo than I do and they still wear brown belts. I don't want to embarrass myself. I haven't even done my nage no kata yet, and I haven't participated any competition recently either. I do practice regularly though, 2~4 times per week, when I am injure-free. I am brown belt for about 2 years now.
What should I do? Should I tell my sensei that I am not ready? Or should I gratefully accept the promotion and get my nage no kata done later? If after promotion I still wear brown belt when I practice at other dojos, would that be inappropriate?
I'd like to share two personal stories that may have some relevance to your situation.
In the first jûdô club I was a member of, the level was relatively low. It was important for me, just like it is for you, to be proud of my level and knowledge at that time. There obviously was no YouTube or video in those days, so the only material we had to compare were books and visiting another club. I collected the exam programs for the next few kyû ranks and was eager to maximize both quantity and quality of my knowledge. I had what you would call, a natural Kantian sense of wondering. This sense of wondering is very important, and something I always emphasize in my students or when discussing curricular matters or student experience. The teacher can kindle that natural sense of wondering but part of the burden is also on the student. I struggled during my first few jûdô classes as I do not learn new motor skills very quickly. But after a couple of lessons, a young brown belt one or two years older than me devoted personal attention to me and in this way got me on track. I had a normale evolution through the initial kyû-ranks but was dedicated, trained jûdô three times per week and tried not to miss any classes. This was how it went until I reached 3rd kyû. At 3rd kyû I started competing, since that was the minimal level one needed to have in order to be allowed to participate in competition in those days, and I was eager to do so in order to test my skills and improve. I did well, and my promotion to 2nd kyû was expedited. My teacher provided me with the exam program for 2nd kyû. I noticed that there was no nage-no-kata mentioned in the exam program. That made me uncomfortable, because I had heard from the brown belt who had come from abroad and who had been in jûdô a long time (black belts were not common in those days) that the first three series of NNK were considered part of standardized 2nd kyû exams, and the 5 series part of 1st kyû exams. There was nothing at all in my thoughts about "pretending to know more/or things better than my sensei", but ... the idea of getting my 2nd kyû in an 'easier' way than anyone did not feel right in particular because I really wanted to feel worthy of the rank, and because I could only imagine to vividly other 2nd kyû from other clubs disparagingly looking down on me if they would find out I would have received my rank by showing less knowledge and skill than they had. This is not at all paranoia, not in jûdô and not in other fields. You do not have to be too long in jûdô to realize that oftentimes people suggestively may try and make you feel less if your rank is not from this or that association, or not Kôdôkan, or not IJF. Obviously in those days I knew nothing about these organization, but it was a gut feeling that proved right, so I did study hard and sought help to learn the first three series of nage-no-kata. On the day I did my test, had demonstrated nage-waza and newaza, my sensei congratulated me and said it was very good. It was clear he was about to give me my new belt at which point I apologized and politely told him that I did not feel comfortable accepting the belt without being examined on nage-no-kata as part of this exam and my knowledge and skill in it being considered adequate by him and I explained the rationale. He was not offended at all, and allowed me to demonstrate what I had learnt about nage-no-kata (three series). It no doubt was far from perfect, but there was also no doubt that somehow he appreciated my suggestion and me showing the extra knowledge. It was a no brainer to him, he understood, and had no problem with it. I never felt that I had not deserved the rank, but there is no doubt I would have felt that way if this would not have happened. In all fairness I can't say for a 100% sure that this is 'exactly' how it went as it is long, long time ago, so whether it really was after I had shown all material or more to the front of the exam I had made the request, I don't know anymore and no one does as that sensei has passed away. I am not even sure who at the time was my exam partner. I have some idea, haven't seen the man for several decades, but no doubt he will recall that even less since it wasn't his exam.
If I as a sensei/examinator would have the same thing happen to me from a student whose comment was of genuine concern, and not motivated by showing off, would I feel offended ? In no way. Would I be offended if after I examine someone for 1st kyû and the person shows all 5 series of nage-no-kata and does an excellent exam of all the rest and then politely explains to me that he has heard about the important of jû and would request me to evaluate his jû-no-kata too to assess that understanding ? No I would not be offended and respond positively to his request on the condition that the requested material can be considered as the overall standard for that exam and it does not create a legal problem in the sense of discrimination in the sense that the knowledge DEMANDED from one person for the same exam is different from the knowledge another person has to show.
A second story occurred not in jûdô but in a totally different field. For reasons of privacy I will not further elaborate on the nature of those exams. In any case in that subject field we required formal official licensing of different steps in practical skills. The person who would examine our practical skills was someone who had not trained us. During that first licensing test several things happened which boil down to the certifying examiner using different terminology, having different pet peeves, anyways, to summarize things ... had a significantly different view on several things than the people who had taught us. It was a nightmare. Because of this, it was impossible for me to perform at the standard which I expect to perform at for an exam. I passed borderline. Immediately after the exam I asked for an appointment with the Chief of the school, who also held the highest federal authority to administer licenses himself, and who was very, very experienced. We had a good chat, and later on had several other chats. As I continued my training I learnt that many of the teachers prepared the students until they had met minimal standards and 'COULD' pass the formal licensing exams IF circumstances were optimal. Basically, if they were lucky, they did, if they weren't lucky, they did not. When I talked to the Chief I made it clear that I did not want to be sent to any licensing exam on that basis. Even if the teacher might think I was ready, I had been living with myself much longer than some of the teachers who had only known me for three months; in other words, I knew my self, complete with my faults, shortcomings, anxieties, wishes, and personal standards a lot better than any teacher. If that meant that my personal standards were higher than those of those teachers, then so be it. It was MY exam and MY license, not theirs. Apparently some students had no problem with a track record of flunked license exams if they were allowed to have another shot a week later. I could not see myself fit within such a scenario, and I did not want such a track record. I also started understanding the rational of those teachers. It had to do with money. Their fixation was on trying to cause students to pass with minimal training and minimal training costs. Perhaps that makes sense from a business point of view. I am not a business person, so if I sound stupid when it comes to that, then so be it. I do now something about education, and motives there are often different from those in a business perspective. In terms of licensing, the educational perspective for me as a student was more important than the business one. It if meant another couple of hundred dollars more to be confident and proud of my knowledge and feel deserving, and being able to walk to a licensing exam KNOWING I WILL pass, rather than that I MIGHT HAVE A CHANCE OF PASSING, then that sounds a lot more justifiable, in particular if your job in anyway is related to safety.
These are two life experiences that really occurred to me personally and where I expressed disagreement with the easier way that was proposed. In both circumstances it was appreciated in the end both by myself and by the other party. The idea that "Your teachers knows best" is probably a good marketable one-liner, but in the end a cliché that in reality is proven often wrong. I am talking in general terms, and certainly not implying anything about any specific teacher. Moreover, even if your teacher truly is right and you are ready neither, you certainly won't be "less ready" if you decide to wait.
In closing, I would like to emphasizing again that what we are talking about here is not really the same as "refusing a promotion". Refusing a promotion is something completely different and is actually sending or handing back the promotion credentials. Such is a of a different nature and also a public statement rather than a private statement. An actual "refusal of a promotion" as a kyû rank is not something I would recommend. It has a totally different connotation than what I just explained, but that is NOT what you asked about, even if the semantic difference might not have been clear to you initially.