Some 4 years or so ago, I was walking out of Seymour Leisure Centre with my son after yet another unproductive session in the gym when a poster advertising a free Xen-Do kickboxing session caught our collective eye.
About a week later (and a free introductory class down) and we were on the road to ultimately achieving our black belts, which we attained earlier this year. It certainly has not all been plain sailing. We have had some setbacks from illness and poor health as well as a dose of general laziness which I am unfortunately prone to. Regards, throughout this period, the support, encouragement, cajolement and general enthusiasm to make sure that we progress has been phenomenal. It is certainly something that I have never encountered in any other form of physical training before. The aim has been to make it enjoyable and yet effective and that it most certainly has been.
Upon entering the dojo, you are told when you start that a ‘Black Belt is a White Belt that has not stopped training’ and I guess that has proved itself to be true over the years. Many of the classes were mixed grade sessions (students of varying abilities and seniority) but I remember from my years of training was constantly being pushed to remember my basics, keep practising and keep going. Don’t worry too much if you cannot remember the various combinations – invariably they are always called out to you and at worst, claim as I have done, poor hearing so that it is called out more slowly!
One thing I would like to stress is not to look on the gradings as an ‘exercise in terror’. Rather, look on them as a learning experience. I don’t think I have gone through one grading with Master Raf where he has not stopped the proceedings to ask questions and, if not happy with the answer, to explain thoroughly to the class. What the gradings do give you is a goal and that goal is easily achievable if you are coming to the classes and enjoying yourselves. Inevitably, you will get fitter, better at martial arts (and more specifically, kickboxing) and you will absolutely avoid the tedium you get when going to the gym.
I remember a comment that Master Raf made at our black-belt grading. He said:
‘The Black Belt is not a line in the sand that you have to cross. It is a journey of personal attainment. Do not look to your left or your right to see if you are performing better or worse than them. Look inwardly and ask: am I performing at my maximum potential and capability. Only then are you truly worthy of black-belt.’
So much is summed up in that statement. And it means so much more. Black-belt is not the end of the road. It is a milestone on a far longer journey. Keep training (and if you want go for higher gradings on the Dan route), keep learning and most importantly use the experience to stay ‘fit for life’!
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