In Okinawan karate, the student who passes his/her test for Shodan or first degree black belt is considered to be ready to finally begin his training. SHODAN MEANS BEGINNER. It doesn’t matter that the process leading to Shodan may have been five or more hard years of training. In traditional Okinawan karate, once you get your black belt you are NOT Mr. Studley J. Studley, you are NOT “THE MAN!” You are NOT God’s gift to creation. You are considered to be nothing more than a beginner, and finally in a position to really take advantage of your training.
What does this Okinawan philosophy have to teach athletes and coaches about excellence in your sport? The attitude that you’re always a beginner no matter how good you are, that you always have things to learn, will take you very far. It will help you become a winner. It will help you reach your potential. Because you can always do better than your best, there will always be newer and better things to learn and ways to coach that will help you get there.
The over-confident athlete who lacks humility, who thinks that he/she has “arrived,” who thinks they have gotten as good as they need to be, the athlete who stops working on his/her game is seriously deluding themselves.
The coach who thinks that his/her way is the BEST and ONLY way, who thinks that they have all the answers and who is closed off to new ideas which might challenge what they already “know” and believe, is seriously limiting themselves and their overall coaching effectiveness.
If you think you’ve got it all, if you think you know it all, if you think that you no longer have anything more to learn, then step aside and watch carefully. Very soon you will begin to see a lot of “beginners,” both athletes and coaches, leaving you in the dust in the rear view mirror!
KEEP AN OPEN MIND! MAINTAIN A BEGINNER’S MIND IN EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO. THIS IS THE ONE PATH TO TRUE EXCELLENCE.