Making the grade  

Friday, 23 March 2007

My recent grading to 1st Dan Iaido is a source of great satisfaction to me. But with it has come some mixed feelings. Or possibly, the act of achieving a personal goal has simply revealed that there are many more peaks to climb on this journey

I discovered, by chance, an excellent blog by a young guy called Richard who also graded to 1st Dan on the same day that I did. One of the things that he mentioned was that he'd spotted a couple of people grading to 1st and 2nd Dan that he felt didn't quite hit the mark in terms of the standard of their Iaido. Hopefully he wasn't referring to me! His comment was that by being awarded the grade, his own - our own - grading had been devalued as a result. My gut reaction was to kind-of agree with that: I have heard of people that have graded to ikkyu after just one or two months of practice. In our dojo, we have to pass kyu gradings all the way up from 6 to 1 before we are allowed to go forward to do the national grading. In my case, around 3 years of patient study. And this is pretty fast by Japanese stadards! I have seen some pretty appalling Iaido (thankfully not too many examples at Watchet)which has neverhteless resulted in a grading pass. There is no doubt in my mind, that there is a definite BKA "clique" which favours certain individuals over others. However, on reflection, I have realised that to trouble ones mind with such thoughts is actually to miss the point of Iaido

The point of Iaido - in my humble opinion - is simply to enjoy the journey, not the thought of the destination. We don't wear distinguishing marks like coloured belts because such outward manifestations of grade are actually quite meaningless. It is the inner journey that marks out the committed traveller from the casual one. It's no accident that Koryu has no gradings. We all like to feel we've achieved some form of recognition for our efforts. But personally speaking, the satisfaction that comes from understanding and performing a technique well is infinitely more rewarding.

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