Someone recently told me that I should “know my place” in the dojo. I think I do know my place- I am a shodan. It doesn’t matter what class I am in, or what belt I am wearing, that is my place in the dojo, and that is how I am expected to carry myself. Ray Peterson-Sensei said it best one day in jiu-jitsu class when he told me “Just because you’re not wearing a black belt in this class doesn’t mean you’re still not supposed to act like one.” So, what does being a shodan mean? Wikipedia says “Shodan, literally meaning “beginning degree,” is the lowest black belt rank in Japanese martial arts.”
Dave Ossian-Sensei has said that shodan is the worst rank to be. You’re not a real black belt, and you’re certainly not a sensei (that usually doesn’t come until sandan). Every colored belt is gunning for you, because you’re the easiest black belt to take out. You have the most to prove, and you get the least respect. You are essentially a martial arts baby. The senior udanja do not yet consider you to be a member of their group, because you are not. All that you’ve really proven so far is that you know how to learn and you’re willing to do so.
I am a shodan…I take out the garbage and clean the dojo. I don’t get invited to all the secret black belt conferences. I have no say in dojo decisions. I am expected to know and uphold the dojo rules, and be an example to my sempai. I am supposed to help teach others the ways of my arts and etiquettes to the best of my ability. I should represent the teachings of Sho-Rei-Shobu-Kan at all times, both inside the dojo and out of it.
Having a black belt doesn’t mean anything if you don’t act like one. I have walked up the front steps and they have opened the door for me. Now it’s up to me to walk through it.