Photo of my son, Victor Michael, at 3 months, with one of my other students.
This is not an exact science. My effort to describe these tendencies rests on the certainty that people might participate in several at the same time, to greater or lesser degrees.
If we stipulate the student has passed the first black belt test, they've remained training for at least 5 years after their sho-dan examination, finding a way to keep their interest strong, fight off the worlds attempts to stop their training, etc. I find the students 300. personal interests manifest in the manner their art is shaped.
This is separate from Dan awards, though perhaps in some programs it may be linked. It comes from my own observation of my students anddiscussions with many instructors on their own students in many arts.
Before I discuss this further I feel it is very important to recognize these tendencies are not better or worse for the student. They all remain working on the same art, they all contribute to the general discovery for the group time offers. It's just they represent many different types of interest, even with the same training. So the order I'm presenting this does not imply one group is better than the other, just that they are different.
One tendency in the long term student may be to train for only their own needs. Either to get a workout, to focus on the self defense aspects they want to believe in, or to participate with their friends. When presented with new skills to study, if the skill is a long term acquisition (say 10 to 20 years of work), they will practice it with the group, but frequently will not develop the
interest in really acquiring the skill. In self defense their interest frequently focuses on how to best use the tools they have already crafted.
Another tendency in the long term student is to train for more than their personal needs, but to fully learn their art. They are willing to get into deeper study, remember more detail, etc. because of their commitment to the art. They want to help keep the full art they study alive, to do more than just train, but to train with deeper passion. They see the group participation as more than just working out with friends, but to help the group understand more and share in that growth.
An entirely different tendency is to become an instructor. This individual has both the desire to train for their own needs, as well as the desire to try and learn the full art. But they take additional responsibility to learn how to craft others to acquire the art. It is easy to say they are instructor A, focused on developing the Dan, and instructor B, focused on developing other instructors, but in all likelihood the different views are more a product of how long they've
been an instructor. But the instructor is not a rote recitation of the art for the new student. It involves evaluating the student's needs, focusing their training to meet those needs, and also spending enough time to continue advancement in the first two tendencies.
And there is still another sort of tendency. I'm not sure how to label it, but it's those who go beyond all bounds to study. Are willing to look at anything and try to find if those arts are found within their own art. They will pay incredible prices in time, cost and effort, forever.
What I believe is these tendencies rest on personal qualities that cannot be simply defined. It is how we take these studies, make them our own and journey onward.
The art requires all of them to exist and grow. Each of them contribute greatly to the group, and not one of them is more important than the rest. Together they keep the art alive.
For the day comes when they move on. Leaving for personal reasons, family, change of interests, illness or injury and of course death. That they entered long term training and shared requires nothing but he utmost respect for their efforts. A respect that hopefully will transcend their sharing, forever.
PS This photo goes back to 1989. In one sense he began attend class at day 3. He attended his first black belt meeting at 4 months. He joined in during class almost as soon as he walked. Formally joined the classes at 7 years when he could become a Boys Club member Continued to train for 11 years till reaching Sho-dan He engaged with many activities, such a baseball, soccer, music et. When attending college trained weekends and holidays. Then after college years continued to train. When work and other activities made him choose. Where upon he chose to spend his time working with the Windham Flute Ensemble. He was solidly in Ni Dan training at that point. That is the purpose of the training, To develop to make the choice to understand what is most important to you and then act on that decision