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The Martial Tree

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  I was talking with one of my co-teachers and she brought up how when she became a black belt she expected to suddenly change and become some kind of martial arts master or sage.  She then realized that she hadn't.  This got me to thinking that I was expecting that as well.  I believe that a lot of beginner martial artists feel this way.  That one day we're going to get our black belt and all this knowledge and wisdom will come pouring into us.  Or that we will develop that reflexes or a cat overnight. In truth this does not happen.  You wake up the next day and not much has changed.  We still make mistakes, there are still a lot of concepts and techniques we don't fully understand, and there are some questions that even we as black belts cannot answer.  This can be intimidating, even make you question "What have I been doing all this time?"  "Why am I not as good as I should be?"

  When questions like this come up one thing that is overlooked is that you have changed, there is knowledge that wasn't there before, and that you have grown.  It just didn't happen overnight.  I was often intimidated feeling like I didn't belong among the ranks of my black belt teachers.  Martial arts, like any long term study or skill is like a flowering tree.  It starts as a seed with nothing but it's individual DNA that gives it its own personality.  When the seed is placed in good soil and given water and sunlight it begins to grow.  This seedling will only take as much water and sun as it can handle for its size.  It will start out with nothing but a stem with maybe a leaf, no branches or flowers.  As it grows it is able to take in more water use more sunlight and develops more branches and leaves.  Which in turn allow it to take in more water & sun.  This process is slow and the growth is not that noticeable when you look at it daily.  Years later when you compare the same mature tree from when it was planted the change is significant.  The trunk is strong, the foliage is thick and there are flowers blooming where there weren't any before.  Even though this same tree when compared to the trees that came before it to produce the seed will often be smaller and less developed.  That is because those older trees were also growing and developing at the same time.  This does not mean that the younger tree is less capable than its elders, it just needs more time to reach the same heights. 

  As long as the martial artist is planted in the soil of a good school/teacher, receiving the water of knowledge and the light of training he/she will be able to grow and flower like the black belts before them.  Hopefully they produce their own seedlings to grow behind them as well.  So don't be discouraged at the changes you don't see day to day, but look at the changes from the beginning as well as the changes to come as shown by your predecessors.

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