Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Ninja's Progress

Someday, this will be me
I have finally passed an important milestone in my ninjutsu training.  After 2 or 3 years (I don't actually remember how long it's been), I have at last earned my next belt: solid green.  For many, this particular rank is just one more step along the way to black belt, and not even really worth mentioning.  But for me, this is a huge deal.

My Old Belts
In a Box
When I earned my green/white belt (my previous rank, for those who aren't familiar with our ranking system), I had been divorced for just over a year and had just started dating my wife.  At the time, I was only able to see my kids for an hour at a time under supervision, thanks to the vicious lies my ex had been spreading about me. I had also lost my home to foreclosure and had to move into a cheap apartment closer to work - 50+ miles away.  This made attending class at my home dojo in Ann Arbor on a regular basis somewhat difficult.  In short, life was happening all around me, and as I left Quest with my shiny new green/white belt, I just kind of ... knew .. I would have to find a different path if I wanted to progress further.  As it turns out, I wouldn't train again for a long time.

The intervening years weren't necessarily difficult. Like life in general, they had their ups and downs. I got married again, had a baby, moved a couple more times, and changed jobs. I've paid off most of my debts, including the ones left over from my previous marriage. I've fought and (mostly) won a drawn out custody battle in court and finally have something that resembles a fair arrangement for my kids. The court system seems to finally recognize that my ex has been lying to them all along (took them long enough, though), and I'm starting to finally see some improvement in my relationship with my older kids.  My wife broke her ankle a couple summers ago and had to recover from corrective surgery while caring for our newborn daughter - that was a trying time for all of us.  I still don't think "difficult" is the right word to use - perhaps "busy" will work.

During the whole time, I became frustrated with my inability to continue my training. I even tried starting over in a different martial art at a school close to home. It just .. didn't "do it" for me, and I quit after 3 months.  I struggled (and still do) with staying motivated and many times failed to make training even a concern, let alone a priority.  My health suffered, too .. I went from being in the best physical shape of my life to what is now probably the worst. I'm currently only 5 lbs down from the most I've ever weighed in my life. I feel like I'm getting old and perhaps nearing that "mid-life crisis" everyone talks about when a man reaches middle age - if I'm not already smack in the middle of it.

DING, level up!
Shout out to my awesome Sensei, too!
But .. a few months ago, I was able to start training again under my awesome sensei, Joel Iverson at the Art of Life Sanctuary in Detroit (shameless plug), and I've managed to stick with it.  As I've chronicled before, it's been tough at times. I've felt like giving up more than I'll ever actually admit.  I've had to overcome the frustration that goes with realizing I've forgotten so much of what I had learned before. I've learned the value of self-discipline the hard way - by not having any and reaping the consequences.  I still have a long way to go, too - 5 more belts before my first black belt, and I don't plan on stopping there.  Today, I will tie around my waist the first tangible token of my recovery and progress as a developing ninja - my first new belt in close to 3 years.

To me, this belt symbolizes many victories. It reminds me of everything I've had to overcome and adapt to over the last couple of years in order to earn it.  My sensei at Ann Arbor once told us how he was more proud of his white belt than any other (and he was a 3rd degree black belt at the time), because that was the one that started everything - that was the belt he had to overcome the most obstacles in order to earn. Today, I understand what he meant.