Well, as of yesterday, I finally put on a hakama and wore my rank for the first time since my return to Aikido. After being away from the mat for years, I figured it would be best for me to return as a white belt until I felt comfortable with my technique, still some rust there, but I felt good enough to put the rank back on. Everyone at the Kenosha Aikikai has been awesome and patient with me getting back into the swing of things. With several of the upper ranks making hints that it would be fine by them to put the rank back on, I placed the order for the new hakama and belt and then got down to business.
One thing that I did just so I could have some fun was that I did not tell Elaine that I had gotten my hakama and belt. If fact, she did not notice it until Miller Sensei mentioned the fact that there was a ‘new’ black belt on the mat. It should help with some confusion on the mat, some of the actual white belts did not know that I was a black belt, so they did not understand why I was doing things so well while they were having so much trouble. Now of course, it will be reversed to “Isn’t this guy a black belt? Why is he having so much trouble with this technique!!”
To be honest, it felt good, really good, to be wearing that stuff again. This was also the first time I really took more time with the beginners I was working with to help them with their technique. That’s not to say that I was not helping before, but since I was not wearing my rank, I only really helped with the gross errors and would call over Sensei to help with the finer points. Kind of funny how things get ingrained, tie a different colored piece of cloth around your waist and change how you interact with others around you. At least the Zen training helped to keep Ego at bay and allowed me to focus on helping, but it was still there and will be for awhile—more training is necessary.