Here I am, hard at work transcribing, editing and compiling eight years of notes from three different notebooks, several different legal pads, and a multitude of sticky notes gathered over countless hours of martial arts training, classes and seminars. This daunting project is in anticipation of testing for my next belt level. Some day. This next level is a comprehensive test which includes everything I have learned (or supposed to have learned) since the first day I entered the dojo and began training. Reluctantly, of course. You may recall that I was going to take a few classes, learn a few things, and then quit. I thought it was a form of recreation.
Then I discovered how serious these people were about their training. I mean, they had notebooks, for Heaven’s sake! “What were those for?” I wondered. Then I found out. I was given a few sheets of paper which listed the techniques I had to learn to test for my first level, my yellow belt. I giggled. I wasn’t ever going to test, I was probably going to quit soon, so why did I need that list? In spite of myself, I put the papers in a thin binder so as not to look out-of-place, or to appear disrespectful.
Then I took my first seminar. My teacher brought his Sensei out from LA to help us train. My teacher talked me into attending, telling me that it was a lot of fun and Sensei was just a great big teddy bear. So, I did. The first day the big teddy bear screamed and yelled. About everything. All day. Just when I thought he had surely run out of things to yell about, he bellowed and lectured us for not taking notes. All of the upper belts whipped out their notebooks and began frantically writing. I sighed to myself, pulled out a piece of paper, picked up a pen, and stared down at the sheet of paper. My mind was as blank and empty as the paper. I had no idea what I was supposed to take notes on. I tried to sneak a peek at the paper of the brown belt sitting next to me, but as far as I was concerned, he may have been writing in Japanese. Then I realized he was.
I noticed Sensei scowling and looking in my direction. Nervously, I began to write. After all, I didn’t want to be the only one staring off into space, especially after that lecture, so I wrote some notes. Bread, eggs, milk. I figured no one would notice that I started my grocery list because my handwriting is so bad no one could possibly read it. I hopefully looked up from my list. Everyone was still writing. I sighed again and started planning my menu for the following week. Since I was already working on my grocery list it was a natural segue. Finally, the note taking period was over and we started practicing our techniques again. Still, every now and then, one of the guys would step away, pick up his notebook, and jot down a few notes. Not wanting to be out done, I walked over to my notebook and wrote down a few other items that I needed from the grocery store.
That was eight years ago. I now have several different well organized notebooks including my original manual, my current manual, my instructor’s manual, and my testing manual to name just a few. It’s funny how things change. The last time Sensei came into town for a seminar, I was frantically writing notes when one of the newer students hunkered down next to me. She wanted to know what I was writing. She told me she didn’t have a clue what to write. She chatted a bit more until I finally told her to write her grocery list. She stared at me for a moment and said, “You’re kidding!” I looked across the room and noticed Sensei scowling at me. I smiled back at him, turned to my fellow student and replied, “You’ve got to start somewhere!”
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP