I’ve put my life in all my senseis’ hands so many times there’s no point in even entertaining the notion of counting. I always enjoy being uke for a demonstration. I get to see the movements close up and experience a very mild version of the end results firsthand. Not only that, I rather enjoy the challenge of listening to and watching the sensei for cues on what I should do. I also am a little bit proud of my ability to know when to yield and how to fall safely. I know that it’s unlikely I’ll come to harm. I’ve only had to tap out once, and I’m thinking that was due to the tendon in question just deciding it was going to be cranky, not any error on Sensei’s part. He was demonstrating something that would’ve destroyed other parts of me!
But how many times have the black belts put their lives in my hands? Up until now, very seldom indeed. First off, I’m only a brand-new 5th kyu, so I’m not exactly a killing machine. Yeah, accidents happen and there are a few things I could do to harm, even kill someone. But given my lack of learning, I’m not much of a threat to any given black belt. Still, working with me is risky because I’m still developing control, particularly with dangerous movements that are new to me.
Given all that, in the short time I’ve been 5th kyu there’s been an uptick in what I’m allowed, even encouraged to do when I’m working with a black belt. In fact at one point just this past week a Sensei allowed me to work him into into an incredibly vulnerable position – as in with one strike I could’ve easily killed him. Of course because I like him as a person and value him as a teacher, I slowly mimed the deadly strike. Let me say it again – he allowed me to trap him. I’m sure he has any number of tricks up his gi sleeve to have countered anything I did at any point from start to almost finish. And I know I was a bit poky getting there.
What it boils down to is trust. My senseis they trust the hours they’ve put into developing their own skills, they trust how well they’ve trained me, and they trust me as a person. To be given that trust is precious. My senseis are risking themselves so that I can learn.
I’m sure that Sensei who allowed me to trap him knew what I was attempting, and I’m positive he allowed me to proceed because he wanted to see if I would reach an effective outcome. Of course he resisted but only just enough to see if I could reach my eventual goal in spite of light opposition. To him, me learning something was worth the risk to himself. What would I have learned if that black belt had shut down my efforts immediately? Nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, videos can and do serve a useful purpose in martial arts. But let’s face it, you can’t experience trust on YouTube. You can’t learn from a computer screen how to trust your instructors and fellow students nor can you receive trust in turn. These powerful lessons for the heart and spirit require the actual presence of other people. When you give and receive trust you are building a solid group of people who can learn and grow together.
And that is most precious and powerful indeed.