I had just traveled about 8,000 miles on a 14 hour trip to Japan. I was to take the test for YonDan, 4th degree black belt in Kendo, the art of Japanese fencing. As I had said earlier (, I had to delay my departure due to passport problems. I did not have adequate time to train in Japan prior to challenging for my YonDan shinsa (test). While everyone else had succeeded in their tests, I had failed!

There was a celebration for the group of us that had traveled from all the way from New York to take the test. As part of the festivities, the HachiDan (Nishino Sensei, 8th degree black belt) in charge asked each of us to say a few words about our experiences. Everyone before me had happy things to say, after all, they had met their objectives.

When my turn to speak came, there was a deafening silence in the room. I began to tell the other Senseis there about how I tried to channel my frustrations into positive learning experiences. In this particular instance, I had written a poem…

I did not pass
There are always obstacles to overcome
Others may try to impede my progress
I will press on, I will never give up!
I have only failed when I start to doubt myself.

I could see some of the Senseis fighting back tears. I had touched them that night and made many friends. Nishino Sensei got up and exclaimed that I understood the true meaning of being a Samurai and he in turn took a napkin and wrote his own words about never giving up. I framed that napkin and look at it during times when success does not come easily, which is often.


One response to “Perseverance

  1. I have taken the liberty of including and editing some of the comments I recently received from well-wishers:

    Asami Sensei (Japan)
    So, “ZANNEN”
    But, always try again, it is LIFE.

    Me: Sensei, thank you for your words of wisdom.
    Guillaume (currently in Turkey)
    I really liked the poem you wrote during your yondan exam!
    Keep on writing!

    Me: Merci beaucoup, mon ami!
    Diego (Puerto Rico)
    Great stuff Sensei!!!! you have my feelings about your 4th dan test, it was very emotional the poetry it really felt in the heart … it really help and it had no more perfect timing then this, because I’m going to challenge my Shodan test this April, so I am finally going to NY, hope to see you there.

    Me: Never give up! If at first you don’t succeed, try again…

    Thank you and I will never give up!
    Anisa (New York)
    Congrats! That is really nice.
    Well done.
    Gil (North Carolina)
    First of all keep writing! I applaud your blog and commitment to training. Perseverance is the key. As my Spec Ops friends say – FIDO. – Ef it Drive On!

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