Respect and kindness are the first concepts I teach in my dojo, from the very first lesson. Karate starts and ends with respect and without this kind of attitude, one is just doing punching, kicking and throwing, and not martial arts.
During my practice I encourage an atmosphere of cooperation, where we help each other progress along the way. This attitude transfers in my daily life and I am always kind and helpful with people, even outside of my martial arts practice.
More than 20 years ago, one of my karate friends (George I.) told me something which surprised me: “Sorin, you are a great teacher, you have a big heart, however you have a huge weakness: you are too kind and helpful with people who might not deserve it”.
Those were the times when you had to travel hundreds of kilometers to take a blue or yellow belt test. For the higher ranks we had to compete in international tournaments, participate in training camps and eventually travel 2500 KM one way (this is not a mistake, check the distance between Romania and Denmark) in a small car to take the 1st or 2nd DAN test.
Just getting there was a huge accomplishment, since we needed visas for each country, without even talking about the financial and emotional effort. The test itself (in Romania or Denmark) was always really hard, and I still have scars from my 1st and 2nd DAN test.
Only a few people were able to make this kind of effort, and those who did it, are still training today!
Now, after so many years, I realized my friend was right! I was kind and helped people who didn’t deserve it. I did everything to help them to improve and move forward with their lives, and they took my kindness as a weakness. They didn’t realize that being part of my inner circle is a privilege that must be earned, and not a right!
Although I learned it through the hard way (again), it is a huge step forward for me. Like my teacher says “you must meet hard with soft and soft with hard”.
For most people the black belt is the end of the road. However for the very few who learned and achieved their ranks through the hard way, black belt represents just the beginning of an incredible journey who will continue for the rest of their life.
When someone comes asking for the black belt test, this is the clear indicator they don’t deserve it. If you are kind and help them without going through the hard way, that black belt is meaningless.
I remember when I started in Romania in 1986, and as white belts we were keep asking our Sensei, when is the belt test?
He always said: “When you are ready…”
The picture represents and old Shinto temple, which is totaly hidden in a bamboo forest, on a top of a hill, completely off the beaten path, somewhere on the Shikoku Island in Japan. I found it together with a student and real friend of mine, just because we were both curious enough to search what our eyes couldn’t see.