Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Gold Arrow

I was going to write this in about 2 weeks. Probably a couple of days after my P5 grading on 21st March at Hengrove Park leisure centre in Bristol.


Writing it now reflects how I feel now and not how I might feel after the grading. My feelings are specific now. If I pass, my feelings will be euphoric. If I fail they will be downbeat. Beyond that I don't know. This blog is about now.

When I took P4 I was almost sick with anxiety. I desperately wanted it and regarded the stamp in my passport as a licence to stay in the Big Boys' club. P1 and P2 are, in my opinion, foundation grades. P3 and up are where the screws tighten. P4 was more than just a different patch. To me it was approval, acceptance and certification of not only my skills at that level but that I could reach as high as people I had always considered to be beyond attainment. It was a tick in a box that said "Good Enough."

I took the grading stressed beyond measure and my worries weren't grounded in fear of physical injury or my energy giving out. They were formed in a void of desperately wanting validation. I remember sitting on the floor waiting for my results and thinking that if I failed I would never grade again. I felt that if I couldn't make the Silver Arrow of P4 then what was the point of trying any more? My attempt had been invalidated.

Like a lot of people I need to feel approved of. I want that acceptance that comes from certifying life's tasks. As a Cub Scout in the 1980s I buzzed with a fierce pride at attaining the Gold Arrow while holding the rank of Sixer. I felt that these badges proved to me, my parents, my Akela and anyone who saw my green jersey, that I was someone who had tried and succeeded. The message of the Cub Scouts organisation had somehow got lost in my desire to get to the highest grade possible. While I helped old people, did 'Bob a Job' yearly and tried to be helpful it wasn't for love of aiding my fellow humans. It was to add points to a tally that would one day gain me that elusive and wonderful four bar patch (Sixer) on my arm and the Gold Arrow on my chest.

When I took P4 it was different to the previous 3 gradings. I went to London Copperbox arena to gain that patch to prove to myself and the world that I could rise higher. I never even realised this at the time but my motivation for that trip was solely to be able to say "Done that!"

In 2013 I took the PADI Rescue Diver course in Plakias, Crete. The actual test was crazy with me in control of six separate people including another diver, and having to personally bring up and deal with an "unconscious" diver. The skills required were hard to master, the stress levels were high and my adrenal gland was waving a white flag. The examiner/ diving club owner had specifically told me that if I bollocksed it up she would not hesitate to fail me. I passed and felt elated. But then I lost interest in diving. I didn't really think too much about it at the time but it was because I had my Gold Arrow. With only 17 dives under my belt I had achieved a high rank. It would look nice on my CV. Job done. Mission accomplished.

This week I've realised that I had booked P5 with the same mentality and, had I not sat down and thought about it, once I passed I would have probably let my Krav training drift and become sporadic. My fitness levels sliding slowly into a different size of jeans. After all, 5 bars on a patch looks much nicer than the 1 I'll get on the next level!!!

Now, the only validation I want is that of my chief instructor at Krav Maga Midlands and my own. If I pass the P5 test in 10 days and I will of course be happy. Fail and I'll be sad and also jealous of those who make it, but I will, for the first time be able to look at it as a learning experience and not another Gold Arrow that looked so very pretty. If I'm not successful I will come back in October and try again.

The freedom and ease this realisation has brought me can't be described. I no longer want to be at that grading for any reason other than personal pride and to learn.

“The only permission, the only validation, and the only opinion that matters in our quest for greatness is our own.”
Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

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