Back in 1999, about a week after Sensei, Ron and I go back from our trip to Japan for Doshu’s Inauguration Ceremony as the new Chief Instructor of the World Aikido Headquarters, I took my Sandan (3rd-degree black belt) test on Sunday morning. It was sweltering that Sunday morning. You must get that my dojo is old school: no air conditioning. I had trained for an hour in Aikido class before my Sandan test.
Honestly, my Sandan test wasn’t as tough as my Nidan, 2nd-degree black belt, test. That might have been on me. Maybe. Yes, it was just long and grueling as expected. I knew that Sensei was really testing for character and endurance. I knew what Aikido, I knew. I kind of knew, what I didn’t know and what I sucked at. This was before Cheryl taught me wabi-sabi: The beauty in our imperfection.
So for the first time ever taking a test, regardless of the venue or context, I had fun. Sensei asked me to test because he already thought of me as Sandan. I had to show him what I knew, what he taught me over the years. Sure, I had to show up and ‘show out’. That was the most fun, I had taking an Aikido test. Ever. I was on the mat for over an hour throwing dudes to the mat. I was tired, sweaty, and had great joy.
After the test, Bobby, who was Assistant Chief Instructor at the time, laughed and told me, “You were lucky. You didn’t have to do weapons (techniques against weapons attack), because Sensei felt sorry.” It was truly a hot day. Besides Sensei had seen enough, and wanted to go home. That was Sensei. No bullshit. Yeah, lucky for me.
All that whimsically said, I was still dead tired. I was so very grateful that Sensei was my Sensei. Come Tuesday night after the Sandan test, it was time to go back to school with Sensei at the Dojo. “Just train.” Grind it out. Have fun. No, it really wasn’t about getting the next rank. It was about what’s next: Working on my timing and distance, waiting out the attack a little longer. Be present. Appreciate Sensei.
Sensei’s life lesson for me: Humility. No matter what I accomplish, I can always be greater than I am. I just train.
As you know, I’m such a fan of 6 time Super Bowl Champion Quarterback Tom Brady. A few weeks after winning his historic 6th Super Bowl Championship against the Los Angeles Ram, he was back training, grinding it out, working on wining his 7th Super Bowl ‘chip’.
Whether Tom, wins another Championship is irrelevant. What’s relevant to Tom, and to me is becoming our greater than versions, whatever that may be. The accomplishments and accolades are very cool, yet grinding it out for what you love, for what’s meaningful for you, is what we live for. Tom’s first love, with all due respect to his beautiful Super Model wife Giselle, is football. My first love is Aikido.
Yeah, we all get old. Our bodies let us know what we can, and what we used to do. We constantly “go back to school” for what we love, for what’s meaningful for us for as long as we can. Tom is absolutely the GOAT at what he does. Yet, even for me, who’s no GOAT, 42-year-old Tom is my much ‘younger’ spiritual brother. We continue to grind it out for what we love.
What I get from Werner Erhard is that life is inherently meaningless by design. Yet, we’re the ones, who get to assign meaning to our lives. I’m responsible for making my life meaningful, discovering what I love, and continually going back to school. Just train. That’s Sensei.
My new love is writing. My dear friend Ken, whom I’ve known for over 40 years since high school, inspired me to self-publish my book on Amazon. He told me I had a possible valuable narrative voice for people out there. That being done and said, I’m working on my next books.
Ken also hooked me up with Lisa, my editor at The Good Men Project. I go back to school working with Lisa, my Sensei, who makes me the greater writer. Just train. Well, in this case, just write. I do what I love. I do what’s meaningful to me.
So what are you going to do in life? Fortunately, I discovered my path, my loves.
What do you go back to school for? What do you grind it out for? What gives you your life? Just asking, this time.
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