"The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants." -- Gichin Funakoshi

Monday, August 28, 2006

Green Belt Syndrome

As a white belt, or even a yellow belt, no one really expects all that much of you. Show up and try. Just do the best you can do (which is all anyone can do, regardless of rank). It's up to you to push yourself beyond what you think your best is and become better. Your sensei isn't going to do that for you, because YOU are the only one who knows exactly where your limits are. Your sensei may challenge your preconceived notions, but he is not going to demand anything of you other than that you strive to perform to the best of your ability.

If you haven't challenged yourself to achieve a better "best" by the time you become a green belt, you are going to have problems. At this point, your sensei IS going to expect more of you. His demands have not changed, but his standards have.

This is the time in the journey where the self-esteem issues return. You are no longer a beginner. And so, in your mind, you should no longer struggle whith the same things you struggled with as a beginner. You should be past all that.

Sensei-Hubby has affectionately termed this phenomenon "Green Belt Syndrome," and says that every green belt worthy of their belt rank experiences it. He would probably show some concern about any green belt who didn't express some degree of feeling inadequate.

This is the point in my journey at which I feel I should no longer have weak or shallow stances. My blocks should be textbook. My kicks should land exactly where I aim them. My kata should be pretty darn near to picture perfect. I should be able to score at least one point in a 5-point sparring match. But in my mind's eye, I don't measure up to any of these expectations.

I think my major issue as far as Green Belt Syndrome is concerned is sparring. I suck. Badly. It's sad. And I don't want to blame others for my inadequacies, but I know that a part of the problem lies with the people I spar. It seems I usually end up against one of two types. The first - the "go easy on her" type. It's blatantly obvious (in my mind at least) that they aren't even trying against me. They want me to feel good about sparring, so they just stand there and let me land everything I throw at them. The other type isn't any better - they "show no mercy" type. They get in the ring and wipe the floor with me before I can even assume a fighting stance. No control. No consideration to the fact that I am still learning the basics of sparring.

By no means do I want anyone to take it easy on me in the sparring ring. But a blackbelt has no business going full-force against a green belt. Ever. Period.

Okay, time to step down off the soapbox. Sorry about that. I had a rather negative sparring experience last week and I guess I needed to vent a bit.

There are a few among our number at the dojo who do not fit into either category that I've complained about. The precious few. But I can't get used to only sparring the ones that help me learn without going easy on me. I need to be able to get in the ring with anyone at the dojo at any given time and at least not shut down completely.

I will be testing for my first brown belt within the next month. And I can shake enough of the Green Belt Syndrome out of my system to be able to say that my kata is up to par. My blocks and most of my kicks are acceptable. Adequate, even. But my sparring is still not past yellow-belt level. I really don't think that's the Green Belt Syndrome talking. I feel that is an accurate assessment of my ability in the sparring ring. And it's not good enough. It's not acceptable.


lizzie said...

I'm a green belt too. However, I'm a 6th kyu istead of a 4th kyu. I'll still be a green belt when I'm 5th and 4th kyu though.

It's good that you are setting high expectations of yourself. To me, I know that I'm far from perfect. It still seems like I'm still a beginner in karate because I was promoted from a white belt to a green belt a little less than two months from now. I know I'm a beginner compared to all the brown and black belts in my dojo.

frotoe said...

I had green belt syndrome until I promoted to 1st kyu(half brown/half black). Thats when it all started to "make sense" to me. Thats alswo when I started to feel adequate at sparring (not good, but adequate) We have those types of sparring partners too- the ones who either spar like you're made of glass or who are out there to prove something and don't care about working technique, only winning and looking powerful. i HATE that. Anyway- I really like your blog! I will visit often. :)