The odd one out. Not chosen. It happens. It’s not that I’m unpopular, it’s just that we risk pushups if we don’t quickly find a partner to work with. As a result, sometimes in the mad scramble I’m standing there with my hand raised and nobody finds me. I don’t get upset about this because invariably, when this happens, I get to work with a black belt. And that is wicked awesome.
We bowed to our partners, and the Sensei told us to get into fighting stance. I did so, but he put his hand over my fist pad and told me to wait. The Sensei instructed the class about the drill and I waited eagerly for my chance to try it out with him. I turned my attention to watching the pairs of karateka as they worked up and down the floor. The dojo Sensei worked with me for just a brief while then I had to go back to watching.
I was so absorbed with watching the other students that I didn’t notice the dojo Sensei coming up beside me. “What do you see?” he asked.
I told him about various pairs and individuals.
“Look at the class as a whole,” Sensei instructed, “then tell me what you see.”
I watched and thought about what the drill was supposed to accomplish. I noticed a trend, then gave my opinion. The Sensei called a halt.
“Joelle and I saw the same thing, but I disagree with her opinion of what should be done differently,” he started.
I chuckled a bit and thought to myself, “He’s entitled to disagree – after all, he’s wearing a black belt and I’m not.”
It turns out I wasn’t quite seeing exactly what people should have been learning from the drill. I only had part of the overall picture. That’s OK. As I gain more experience, I’ll have more and better insight. The dojo Sensei gave his explanation of what he’d like to see people doing and not doing and told everyone what my solution lacked. Then I got to work with another student. I quickly caught on to what I was supposed to be doing, so I wasn’t the least bit “behind” because I’d been off to one side watching. Later on I was able to apply what I’d learned from the drill while sparring.
What if I’d been put off by not having people eagerly jostling to be my partner? What if I’d moped instead of watching and analyzing? I’d have completely missed out on an opportunity to learn. I was given a gift – a chance to think about and analyze a dojo full of karateka just like I will need to do when I myself am a Sensei. Never mind that I don’t have the insight that a Yondan has, that’s OK – I was given a chance to try. I had fun, I was challenged to do something I’d never done before, and I learned from the experience.
Later it occurred to me that if I’m ever too injured to participate, I could practice watching individual students and the class as a whole for trends. So I guess I can knock injury off the list of things that would keep me from going to class 🙂