Dealing With Disappointment

It’s never a nice feeling to be told that you’re not ready for a grading, especially when you feel that you have worked hard towards it. But for all of us, there will be a time when we have to deal with disappointment. It may be having to miss an event that you’ve been looking forward to for months, or being told you’re not ready to grade, and how you handle that disappointment will either help or hinder you.

Speaking with a few students recently I’ve been impressed by the attitudes from some who handled the moment of being told they’re not ready with a positive mindset.

Some said that they already knew that they weren’t ready and were relieved to not been put forward. Others asked what they need to work on to ensure that they are ready for next time. All of them accepted the decision with humility and respect.

In the past I’ve had both students and parents berate or argue with me for not putting them forward, as if it was an automatic right deserved by them. Some have quit because they were told they weren’t ready yet, which just reinforced that the decision was correct in the first place.

One of my own experiences of disappointment below is to show that it’s not what happens to us, but how we deal with these things that matters most.

In 2011, a couple of years after joining a new association I was preparing for my 4th Dan grading test, which also coincided with my very first trip to Japan. I’d spent all year saving up for both the trip and the test fee and many months in the lead up putting in all the hours I could, training hard and getting extra sessions with my Sensei to ensure success. I felt about as ready as I could be, and the feedback I was getting from him and my other instructors were all positive. I was on track and looking ready to pass.

The test was to be at the end of the 6 days of intense training in the unforgiving heat and humidity of the Japanese summer in Omagari. But at the end of day 4, I was pulled aside and told by my Sensei that I wasn’t allowed to test for 4th Dan, and that I would retest for 3rd Dan instead. I was devastated!

After all of the time and preparation, the reassurance by him and my other instructors that I was ready, spending thousands of pounds in training, plus the additional costs of flights, hotels and time away from my family, I couldn’t test for the grade I was expecting to.

Was I disappointed? Of course!

Was I upset, angry and bitter? Yes, absolutely, and for a long time after I returned home too.

Did I let it stop me? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I continued to train from the very next day with the same level of intensity, discipline and focus, and I took the alternative test which simply ratified the grade I already had, but now it was officially recognised by the new association. I accepted this moment as a bump in the road, taking a detour that would slow things down but it wouldn’t stop me on my journey.

I eventually passed my 4th Dan in 2015, oddly enough on my 4th trip to Japan.

Sometimes we have to “eat bitter” at some point either in karate or at another part of our lives, be that at school, work, with friends, family or at home. It’s never pleasant, but take it like it’s medicine. Don’t leave it in your mouth where all you get is the horrible taste sitting there. Swallow it as quickly as possible and then let it help you.

So when the time comes to test for your next grade, good luck, but be prepared to deal with the disappointment of failing. Handle it like a true martial artist and get straight back in the dojo.

Richard Hang Hong