Ta Da! I have finally, finally achieved my brown belt (1st Kyu).
What made me decide to grade? I don't know really. The subject of me grading to brown was broached a few weeks ago. I normally avoid talking about gradings because I don't like them.At first, I said no, but a little voice said 'why not?' so I said yes instead.
I have been doing Aikido for 7 years now. I never started Aikido to grade, it was just something that the other beginners in the club that had started with me were up for doing so I went along with them. Gradings are supposed to be 'good' for your Aikido I was told. Then after that, we all had our eyes on our yellow belts, then our orange, and so on. I never really thought about why I was grading, I was just told when there would be one and then spend many hours worrying about it until then.
I remember all my gradings, probably because they became such an ordeal for me. I remember nearly being sick in the ladies before my orange belt grading, and how in the month before my green belt grading, nothing went right in training. I was never really athletic at school, I was good at long distance running, discus and table tennis. That was it. So I guess grading became important to me because I wanted to prove I could be good at something physical as well as intellectual. And yes, I know that is not what grading is supposed to be about, but when you're desperate to prove to yourself that you can do something, it becomes slightly obsessive.
I remember talking to a Dan grade at a competition about grading once. I was at green belt, and was thinking about grading to blue, but wasn't sure if I was grading for the right reasons. I wasn't sure that I was 'ready'. He said that gradings shouldn't be a big thing as such, they should just be something that you're ready for. I then asked how you know when you are ready. I always remember his answer. He said to always remember that gradings are you just demostrating that you are performing at the next level, and he said that if I could do that, and not feel it was a huge ordeal, then I was ready.
So, the grading. Actually, this time was different. I didn't feel nervous at all. Getting changed, as I put on 'good old blue' as I call my blue belt I noticed it was looking a little bit manky to be honest. When I first got it, it was a beautiful periwinkle blue, now it was a brownish shade of blue. Slightly ironic considering what I was about to do. I'm very fond of my blue belt, its seen alot of action. But now it was time to see if I was ready for a change.
I did start feeling slightly sick when the table and chairs were being set up at the side of the mat and told myself that I was being ridiculous. Me, having had emergency surgery and further borderline major surgery last year scared of table and chairs at the side of the mat! This was what I had been working towards and training for, I was ready. No need for nerves.
After that, it was nearly plain sailing. More or less everything came together at the right time, even doing left handed kata. I could almost say I quite enjoyed the grading, which is a first. There were a few things that weren't quite right, but no grading is perfect.
The strange thing is, I don't feel especially excited or estactic about getting my Shokyu. Not like after getting all the others. But this one feels the most right one. Perhaps its because I graded when I was ready, and not because I felt I should.