Name change, game change, blue skies, and new pies.

A lot has been happening at our dojo in the last couple of months. There have been lots of changes, all positive. Everyone has been heads down, tails up, busy, working really hard, and as a result there has been much success and cause for celebration.

A couple of weeks ago, and off the back of 2 weeks of in house training and grading (for higher kyu and juniors), we had our 2nd and final panel grading for the year. This was a particularly exciting event, since my Senpai and 2 other Senpai from the other club where I train regularly, were graded to Shodan (black belt). Alongside them were a team of purple belts (myself included) going for brown belt. It was a pretty intense morning / afternoon (which took about 4 hours) and it was lovely to share some more relaxed / social time afterwards with everyone when most of us (including the rest of the club who had come to watch and support those grading) went out for lunch.

Everyone was successful in achieving their next rank. I was so proud to see everyone progressing, especially some of my cohort (affectionately known as the Green Team and more lately team aubergine) who started out  thinking they would not, but, through hard work proved themselves wrong in the best possible way.

The following Monday we were all presented with our belts and stripes….and lo, the big colour change occurred. This took quite a long time since there were 18 students, and our instructor (as handed down to him by his instructor) personally ties on our new belts for the first time; a very beautiful tradition in my opinion.

The other thing that happened that night, was that a few of us were awarded with Senpai titles. Although of late I have assisted with various tasks related to the running of the dojo,  helped my kohai learn their new kata, or assisted running parts of class at times, these have been things I wanted to and was more than happy to do. Being formally recognised for this, and being given a title of Senpai was a very special moment for me.

It was a moment I hadn’t really even considered before about a few months ago. To be honest, 2 years ago, I had never even considered the possibility of making it to this point; to being a Senpai, to earning my 2nd kyu, to thinking ahead to shodan…..and beyond….(because honestly, that is where this is all heading)….I felt proud. I felt humbled. I felt grateful. I felt emotional. I felt empowered. I felt a tiny bit scared and perhaps even a little overwhelmed. I smiled a big smile, because overall I was incredibly happy that I had made it to this point, and more importantly because I realised how incredibly fortunate I have been to have such a great teacher to get me there. I didn’t cry on the outside, but I think I did on the inside – tears of pure joy.

It’s all been a little bit surreal, and although I am starting to remember that the brown belt with its 2 black stripes in my bag is actually mine, and although I am starting to really step things up a notch, to notice more, to hone my skills, to learn to teach effectively…… every time anyone refers to me as Senpai, I still look over my shoulder…..for the other Senpai…..or nearly forward the message or text, to the Senpai who were and are my Senpai! When you get the name Mummy you usually get 12 months or so to get used to the idea of answering to it…..this name change was instantaneous!

My 5 year old who trains with us likes to call me Mummy Senpai but I have made it abundantly clear that noone else is allowed to do that (it’s cute from your own 5 year old but after that….not so much the image I am after). My husband refers to the Senpai as the “pies”; a vestige from a time when Ms 5 (in pre-training days) couldn’t pronounce the term; he wanted to know whether I was an apple pie or a cherry pie. I told him I thought of myself more as a “humble ‘pai”.

We now have 3 new Senpai in our dojo, making 4 all together. One is the new Shodan, my Senpai (in rank) and my Senpai (in title), one is me, and the other 2 are my 2 immediate Kohai. That’s a lot of people being called Senpai. It can get a little confusing, but hopefully we’ll all get the hang of it soon. The kohai seem to have adapted to the name change better than the new Senpai, that’s for sure!


6 thoughts on “Name change, game change, blue skies, and new pies.

  1. Congratulations on your brown belt Rachel, and your new title – that’s fab, and such a joyful milestone to end the year 🙂 The pictures are lovely too – is that a cake in the top left corner? If so, who made it / what’s the story behind it . . . ? Kai x


    • Hi Kai,
      Domo Arigatou! We have our dinner next week so no doubt that will also be great (somewhat more relaxed affair) and are still training until 24th December but the grading / belt ceremony were certainly a high point for our dojo. We only break for about 3 weeks – start again on 16th January!!

      The cake is one I made for the belt award ceremony. I made it so that everyone could have some ie to suit all our dietary requirements – it’s vegan / gluten free and uses dates to sweeten it and it’s like chocolate mud cake so popular with the masses. (I think I may have to make more next time – our family is growing!!!). It is decorated around the sides and on top with all our new belts / stripes – fondant icing…. (I made sure there were enough in the relevant colours) and then I used my new shodo brush to paint on our dragonfly (part of our emblem / logo) and our club kanji (“ue” “chi” “go” “ryu”) – just like the scroll we put up at shomen, in black food colouring. I thought it was important to have a little celebration especially since my Senpai got his shodan which was pretty exciting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ohh that’s awesome to hear about all the love, care and attention to individuals’ needs you put into the cake – really glad to have asked you about that now, as it feels like an important part of your overall story. In fact, can’t believe you didn’t include such rich info in your original article! All the very best for your dinner next week, and for that hectic run-up to Christmas . . . 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • My dojo are my second family (although pretty soon as I said, I will need to use a bigger cake tin, as we keep getting more “kids”). I am doing some xmas cup cakes and will make sure there are plenty to go around this time. I have also been doing some crafting with everyone in mind….because….sharing is caring / giving is living! I didn’t specifically blog about the cake; I thought a picture would suffice for the ….though it was kind of fun to make and decorate and also to share the back story with you. Osu.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ossu and congratulations, Senpai! Certainly wonderful things to celebrate!

    In our organization, anyone who is your senior (even if you’re a white belt and addressing an orange belt) is “Senpai,” but it’s rare to hear it until about 5th or 4th kyu.

    In another organization, everyone calls you “Senpai” until 3rd Dan (yike).

    I have lots of fun after Shodan tests going to all the new black belts, bowing to them, and saying, “Ossu, Sensei!” The different reactions are great 🙂

    Wonderful stuff and I’m so very glad you’re making progress by leaps and bounds!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sensei for us is also an awarded title and is only after 3rd Dan and lots of other requirements, like teaching, contribution to style and general Karate community etc. The exception to this is a Dan rank who runs their own dojo…. they are called sensei then.

      I witnessed one of my instructors receive the title at my first gasshuku…. pretty sure he had some tears of joy on the outside….. I think I even did. Other titles come much later and with way more experience and rank and contribution etc.

      Liked by 2 people

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