The Choice of Perseverance
Written by John Chrisman
On a Friday night in July at the Gi Yu Dayton Dojo, I stood at
attention in front of my teacher, Sensei Sukh Sandhu, as he sat at a
grading table in the front of the Dojo training area. My
examination for the Yondan (4th Degree Black Belt) rank review had just
Standing next to me was my uke (senior student of the dojo), Aman Brar.
Seated behind me and toward the rear of the dojo were my friends
and training partners of many years. They were also preparing for their
respective rank tests that night as well.
Aman “Sempai” and I were the first to test because he and I
are the senior students of the Gi Yu Dayton Dojo. I want to share
this reflection with all of you whom have a goal, and have sometimes
fallen short of it. This is my humble perspective to that
failure, though with perseverance, you can change it to success.
It was hot and very humid this evening and I could feel the sweat
running down my neck and back. As I stood in front of my teacher,
I waited for his decision. He took several moments reviewing his
testing sheets of my performance before looking up at me.
“You understand that you failed this test.” he questioned.
Yes, very clearly I knew I failed this important test, I thought to myself.
“Yes, Sensei.” I said.
Sensei then asked, “Do you understand why you failed the test?”
In my mind I thought, during the test, it was very clear to me why I failed.
I was hoping I would not have to give a public statement as to why I
did not pass since I felt as badly as I did without saying a word.
“Yes, Sensei, I do understand.”
Sensei looked at me and said, “You are one of my senior
students. I expected better than this, I know your skills and
potential are much better than this. You have two months,
then you will retest.” I stepped back, bowed and left the
That day, Friday July 18, 2008 was not my best day.
I could have explained away my reasons for not passing the grade but
they were irrelevant at this point. In front of my teacher,
Sempai, and training comrades, all whom I have great respect for, I had
failed. End of story. Or so I thought.
I spent the following weekend reflecting on what happened to create
this result. I went back and reviewed the times I began
practicing for this test starting in early 2008. I had reviewed
the kata, practiced the movements, and had gotten to the point where I
was comfortable with them. Although the test itself is very
complex as to the use of weapons, unarmed kata, and knowledge of the
lineages involved, I felt I was ready.
But I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t practiced nearly enough
and it showed. The movements were not ingrained and natural to
me, not enough time practicing, even though Sensei had given all of us
almost a year to start “thinking” about our next rank
During that weekend as I reviewed the past 7 months of training for
this exam, I had a strong feeling of personal failure. I have
trained in this Dojo for almost 20 years. I understood that the
training regimen at the Gi Yu Dayton Dojo was challenging, even severe
at times. I happily accepted this fact, because it made me a
better martial artist and more importantly a better member of my
community. No obstacle can hold me from achieving
success. My job is to convey this curriculum as
taught to me from my teacher to my junior level students. This is my
responsibility. This training is what clearly separates us from
other places of teaching that claimed to train in similar lineages.
It was at that moment I realized I had an important choice to make.
I could sit here, continue this self pity, get nowhere in my
training and let that effect my life or I could stand up, investigate
what happened that caused this result, learn from it, shake it off, and
get back to training. The facts to me were now very clear.
I did not put in the “dog time” required for this
test. Understood. I did not consult senior people to ask
(and re-ask) pertinent questions about the test material. I now
understand. Did I hear what was spoken through my test
result? Yes, loud and clear with both ears. Did I feel
better knowing the facts? No. Not at first. But, I
had a clear course of action and that was more important to me than
There is a Japanese saying, “Failure teaches
success”. This is a simple yet very true statement. I
know there will be shortcomings at each step of everyone’s lives
including mine. This is a simple fact of life. As I address
my challenges, what I know to be true in learning from and more
importantly, moving past these shortcomings are this:
• Don’t beat yourself up too much.
It is counterproductive to the result you want and you have friends who
will do that for you anyway.
• Have friends you trust who will be painfully honest with you when it is required.
• Have a teacher (like I do) that truly is
looking out for your best interest and actually takes pleasure in your
success (though he will push you to your limits and even past
them). This is someone who is personally vested in your growth,
he will be brutally honest with you, but he will also help pick you up
to achieve your dreams.
• Figure out everything that is to be learned from the event you have labeled a failure.
• Don’t repeat the mistake.
• Let it go.
• Get after your goal and accomplish it!
I resumed training for my test for Yondan on Monday July 21, 2008 with
the intent that nothing will stop me form accomplishing that which I