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!