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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Did you ever wonder? "Why are high school or college graduations called "Commencement" ceremonies? Commencement means "beginning", right?

So true that is! When I was in High School I thought it was weird that graduation was called "commencement Exercises", if we were ending our stint in High School. Why wasn't it called "Final" ceremonies, or simply just "graduation"?

As the word "commence" implies, it is a new start....a new beginning. After High School, your world changes dramatically with increased homework load, moving away from home (if applicable), working a job while going to school, sleepless study nights, parties you wish you probably didn't go to, and all the things that make you realize you're trying to figure out how to be an adult. You're no longer the big man on campus or the popularity a freshman in college it can be a bit overwhelming for the 1st few months. You realize that coursework is sooo much harder and requires much more of your time. You realize that the professor probably doesn't care that you skipped his class for the past 3 mornings, he isn't going to track you down. But you'll find your grades slipping fast in that class if you don't get back on the ball. For High schoolers, its a jump from semi independence to self reliance...after all, although you had your car and your buddies, places to go, people to see, you still had to ask you parents for money. Now, you have to work if you want to eat. Your parents will probably make sure you've got your textbooks and your tuition is payed, but you'd better find your own money for gas, pizza, soda, entertainment, etc.

In comparison, let's take the transition from high school to college, or from college to grad school, and compare it to martial arts ranking progressions....

My opinion....I think we should call martial arts Black Belt tests "Commencement Exercises". Martial arts know what I mean! Some people think that getting their black belt means they've mastered the art. I too, have seen students attain their black belts, and soon after they're gone, apparently "masters" of the art. Although they know they are not experienced enough nor knowledgeable enough to teach, their demeanor tells me that they're "done, having learned all there is to learn". The sad part is, most times when they leave, they leave at the "apprentice black belt" rank....a rank that is normally not acknowledged by our mainstream upline until *after* 1st degree. In a way, its the point behind the stay and learn much more and someday be recognized by the organization. So, actually, when they leave, they leave not as "full fledged" black belts.

Black belt is merely a stepping stone...a phase that marks "I've gotten really good at my fundamentals". Now, the REAL training and learning begins. The whole journey to the first black belt is meant to be difficult....only then can we take a good hard look at ourselves inwardly. Once we've looked inward, the secrets of the art are so much more visible in our training.

Just as stepping into college from high school can be a big wakeup call, so can that new black belt around our waist. In high school you might have done great in math, but don't get overconfident and cocky in college...the math can be surprising, especially if you don't study because you're so cocky. Same with getting your new black belt. Don't get cocky....or you just might end up hurting yourself just to prove you're a new black belt. (been there....done that!!)

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