Just, Not the Same

On the first day I received these two belts they looked nearly the same. The same two-inch Shureido black belts, the same gold embroidered kanji, the same five characters on one of the ends of each belt – “from Sakiyama Sogen” – the teacher who presented them to me. 

On the other end of the belts were two different phrases. One was Ken Zen Ichi Nyo, motto of Shoshin Nagamine, founder of Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu Karate. 

The other belt had Oku Myo Zai Ren Shin – the motto on the front wall of the dojo of Chojun Miyagi, Sakiyama Sogen’s teacher, founder of Goju Ryu Karate.

I chose one of the belts for training. The other I put by for later, for when the first one wears out. They don’t look the same any more.

In the beginning practitioners are similar. All have a chance to learn and thrive.

But not all do. Some strive. Some get by. Some welcome hard challenges. Some back down. Some persist for a lifetime. Some move on. And although as beginners they were similar, after some time they become very different. 

Over the course of a life of training belts show signs of wear. People show signs of strength, skill, refinement, and purpose. 

This is just. Ranking systems may or may not be. But good training is. If you do the work, you get the results. If you don’t, you don’t. That is not a subjective decision. That is how reality works. That does not provide the same result for everyone who walks in the door, but it is fair.


Post and photo Copyright ©2020 by Jeffrey Brooks, author of  “The Good Fight”, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook, and lifetime practitioner of Okinawan karate.


  1. Humberto Nuno de Oliveira says:

    Hello Sensei, is Sakiyama Sogen still ok: Do you have mor info on him. Thank you so much


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