Back in the day it was all about where one stood in line, all about moving from the left end of the line to the right end, and then up to the front of the class.
Testing was what drove everything back then, perfecting everything one knew in order to pass the next exam and there was even a thing known as 'challenging the test,' which I had done several times since I had begun training at the Olympic Martial Arts Center on Callow in Downtown Bremerton.
I was even part of the AAU Tournament Team and part of that 'inner circle' of 'Senior Students' that always hung out together, always trained together, brothers and sisters of the Dojo, that sort of thing... They are my friends to this day and there is not a whole lot I would not do for any one of them.
I had met Shihan Roseberry several times as a kid, even trained with him at his 'Research Center' in Lincoln Nebraska and spent the night at his house after swimming at the pool where he worked as a lifeguard with the rest of the Tournament Team as we made our way to Chicago Nationals.
Skipping forward a bit I had slowed down, I realized the value in focusing on just one thing in order to understand it rather than to simply know what I needed to know in order to pass my next exam, which lead me down a path of inner searching... I ended up being Shihan Roseberry's Otomo during his visit to Olympia... A very stressful job and, to top it off, I was very ill, though not with the flu, something else entirely, but I managed to step onto the floor and stay at Shihan's side for as long as possible.
In the beginning it was all about position, later it was simply about staying the course, never giving in and never giving up.
What is more it is about appreciation that leads to deeper understanding... I had wondered very deeply about the usefulness of Kata, why did we perform these things? What purpose did it serve to do different Kata? Were they just exercises or was there something more going on?
Shihan knew, my Sensei knew, but I did not... I was just barely starting to look into these things and Kata was just barely starting to register on my radar beyond simple movement patterns they we practiced simply because they were part of our way... Or simply because they were meditation.
For quite a while afterwards I focused solely on Hookiyu/Kihon Kata (the one created by Seikichi Toguchi) and sought some understanding of each movement or sequence and ran them by my Sensei in various E-Mails and face to face questioning.
I would get up in the morning and spend hours on just the opening (which is the same as Gekesai Kata) keeping an eye towards what was going on 'between' what are accepted as the 'main' movements of the Kata.
It is extremely important to question everything, but also extremely important to realize when your mind is playing too big a role in your training.
I have researched Kata with the best of them, and on my own, and have seen many variations to realize where things have been changed for the purposes of 'making the art safer' along the lines of Kano's Judo as this shows a progressive change between what was practiced prior to WWII and after WWII... It provides an appreciation, but the journey is far from over and I still understand VERY little.
So it is amusing when someone claims to have so much knowledge as to make it obvious when 'rank' is going to their heads.