Tag Archive: black belt

The new battle

And so, it begins…

“The end is nigh!” they cry
for anyone caught by cancer’s snare.
Lie down, accept it, there’s nothing you can do.
Cancer’s got you, it doesn’t give a care.

I look on, incredulous, eyebrows raised high,
as the multitudes simply accept nature’s cruel gift,
…it must be accepted, cannot be denied.

The end is nigh? What tosh!
Cancer, you showed up early, announced yourself,
what hope do you really think you’ve got!?

I’ve spent 10 years waiting for you, preparing my mind, pacing the floor,
just in case you should decide to come knocking on my door,
and you know what, I’m almost pleased that you’re here.
Ha ha! Oh yes! I like a challenge I do, a battle, a just fight.
And you’re taking me on? You’re going for my life?!

Well have I got news for you sonny Jim.
I’ve got strength like you wouldn’t believe.
I’m a black belt in self belief,
with friends and family that’ll prop me back up when I fall,
to dust me down and push me back into the ring.

I’ve got all that… and what have you got, eh?
What have you got?
What. Have. You. Got.


I was once a part of a Martial Arts school that sold itself as the ‘Original and True Way’.
When I started with this system I had already spent four years within the arena of Traditional Karate under the tutelage of Sensei Nick Moller of Shoto Ryu. Eventually within Shoto Ryu, I had learned enough to realise that it didn’t suit me and I needed to look elsewhere. (It is worth saying at this point, that I don’t feel that there was anything wrong with Sensei Moller or his methods; simply that I was looking for something a little different.)

Leaving Shoto Ryu I recalled a flyer I had picked up and held onto from somewhere years earlier. It said that they practiced Karate, Street Defence, Japanese Sword, Oriental Weapons, and intriguingly, something they called Zen Philosophy.

Throughout the following seven years, I learned a lot about the world of Martial Arts and their weapons; an unorthodox version of eastern philosophy… and in the last week, then 12 months after leaving, I learned a lot about me!
The main part of the school that had me hooked, was the philosophy. It was an introduction to another way of looking at life and its myriad events, and in many ways is what spawned my book, then this blog.
However, in working hard trying to understand the lessons given, and the constant changes that were made (it was said once ‘The only certainties here, are the uncertainties!) I was unaware of the undercurrent of change that was breaking down what used to be a fantastic ethos that had for two decades been the engine that powered the school and its teachings.
When I suddenly became aware of this, it was like the rug being pulled out from under me. And it hurt. For four months. And continued to play on my mind daily for another eight months after that. It was two years before I could laugh about it…

As a lower grade you tend to look up at the Black Belts hoping that one day you will be able to lift yourself to their level and stand amongst them; it becomes a dream and a goal to become one of the ‘elite’ of the club or system.
With years of hard work and focus, one day your Sensei says that you are ready for your Black Belt grading… and perhaps you feel ready, although many never do!
The day comes and you stand before those in the association, in front of those not as far along the path as yourself, and alongside those who have mirrored your efforts, and you theirs, and will attempt their toughest test with you.
Most importantly, you stand in front of your Sensei desperate to do them proud, and your self [sic]. The self can be the harshest critic of all. Even in passing the grading, it will still stand aside and say ‘… you forgot this, you didn’t do that, you messed up there, you could have done better…

With any Martial Arts system worth its salt, you will be pushed for hours far beyond any previous perception you may have had of your limits of physical and mental endurance. No matter what training you’ve put in, you will reach the stage of ‘I can’t do this! How the hell am I supposed to keep going…?!’ …but you will find that you can… and you will keep going.

Now that you have ‘arrived’, and you stand proudly within the ranks of the Black Belts of a system, you give silent approval to those who stand behind you, of the methods, ethos, and philosophies of the school and the Sensei.
If the school you are in teaches you total obedience to the whims of its Master, then you are in fact in danger of losing your own identity, and I would suggest that you in turn, when reaching Black Belt, are also now guilty of perpetuating the damage to those below you.

The responsibility of being a Black Belt within the arena of Martial Arts, where there is a high proportion of groups that can be accurately described as ‘cults’ is not something that should be taken lightly.
I know.
I’ve been there. When I realised what I was doing, I had to leave.

The responsibility is on doing the right thing, no matter how much it hurts.
And that responsibility is on your shoulders the day you put on your black belt.
The status awarded is something to be treated with the greatest of respect.

It is now four years on, and I now stand with a new group of Black Belts, and with the lessons learned in my past, I can proudly say that I’ve done it right this time… that they do it right.


The strongest bonds of friendship; of kinship,
are created in the shared fires of passion.

In the places where blood, sweat and tears flow,
and a person’s true nature shines through.

Those bonds are finally cemented for a lifetime,
through shared celebration of music, laughter and …er, beer.

I thank you all for giving me this,
for each playing a part in the creation of something great,
and I can only hope that I did enough by you too.