Most of us cast ourselves as heroes in our life stories.
To achieve this exalted status usually
requires us to ignore some inconvenient truths and
put a spin on others.
I usually present my decision to test for my 6th degree
black belt in Japan like this: Sakamoto-Sensei had
just finished an embukai
(demonstration) where he displayed his mastery of technique.
Following this, he gave two of his shihan in Japan
long-overdue promotions to sixth dan. Then he e-mailed
me and asked if I wanted to make a request for "special
Following the examination in October, 2007, we
took a road trip to see the bridges of Amakusa. From
right: Jun Suzuki, the writer, Ken Sakamoto,
Kazutaka Okashita and Peter Zehr.
But I didn’t want to be “given” my
belt. Instead I insisted that I should do a physical
test to prove my worthiness.
It makes for a good story but the truth is more mundane.
I would have gladly accepted my promotion if it had
been clearly offered to me. I had been doing karate
a long time and felt I deserved it. Other people were
getting high ranks; why couldn’t I have one,
I was puzzled by the instruction that I should make
a request for special promotion. I didn’t understand
what Sakamoto-Sensei wanted. If he thought I was deserving,
why didn't he just give me the belt? Did I
need to beg?
My irritation turned to anger and I sent an e-mail
saying that I rejected the idea of asking for promotion. I
requested permission to go to Kumamoto for a physical
test, to demonstrate my technique.
Sakamoto-Sensei called my bluff and a date was set
for a year later, in October 2007.
Pride goeth before the fall trip.