Attitude determines altitude.

By Sensei Walt Fast

The fifteen-year-old shifted his weight from foot to foot. He shook both hands down several times as if to dispel water from his fingers. Once again he glanced from his own blue belt over to the group in his division. He checked his feet again, then stared back to the five or six talking loudly to each other.

"They were brown belts and two red belts for goodness sakes!" fretted the blue belt. Gesturing and animated, they fairly oozed self-confidence and expertise. Laughing loudly over stories of past exploits they conveyed their ease in the ring as well as each other.

"Donít look at them "said a low, quiet voice close to his ear. The blue beltís teeth clicked together, but his startled expression eased when he recognized one of his Senseis standing close to him, with his back to the group.

"What are you talking about Sensei? " said the blue belt. He seemed a little perturbed but more embarrassed that his interior turmoil had been recognized by his Sensei. The blue belt quickly scanned the faces around him and also the group before he looked back to his teacher.

"Youíre getting intimidated by them," stated the other flatly. "Have you ever seen a deer caught in the headlights?" The blue belt gulped and said nothing as he looked back at his teacher. "Donít stare at them. Come on, letís stretch a bit while youíre waiting."

As they were both on the ground slowly stretching out his Sensei said: "Breathe slowly through the nose and out, you know how, use it here." The blue belt felt his anxiety ebbing a little. He was doing something now and it felt good to focus on another thing.

"If you want to look at them, take a good look, then keep your eyes to yourself "said Sensei quietly. Then he asked;" That tall one with the red belt, how is he going to come at you?

How can you beat him? "The Ni-Kyu looked over at the group still deep in conversation. His eyes were no longer as large as saucers, but reflective and flat. He looked back and said quietly: " Heís got great kicks, I remember him from the last tournament."

"And"... said Sensei, letting hang there.

The Ni-Kyu thought for a second, then said: "After his attack with the rear leg Mawashi he is often too wide and open."

"Good! How about the shorter brown belt?" was the next question.

"You mean the one talking now?"

"No, the one who looks like a weight lifter." his teacher said.

"Iíve seen him only once before," said the Ni-Kyu, "but heís got a great reverse punch."

He paused a second, then looked over and said "Iíll have to keep him away with my leg kicks, then come in with punches when he gets frustrated."

The Black Belt smiled and nodded as he started to put on his gloves. The Ni-Kyu put his stuff on as well as his ring was about to start. His smile was a bit distorted with his mouth-guard in place, but his eyes sparked as he said: "Hey Sensei... thanks eh!"

"Anytime," his Sensei replied, "You just needed a little "heads-up" thatís all. Youíll do well, I know you will".

With that he turned and walked to his own ring.

The Ni-Kyu did well that day, he won his division! More importantly he won the respect and friendship of the other competitors. Most of all though, the Ni-Kyu would never look at things the old way again. He had gained self-confidence in his abilities as well as his strategies, by applying the right attitude for the right occasion.

His Sensei did pretty good that day too. It was not the pride in his student so much as the fact that the Ni-Kyu had taken what he had been taught and made it work for himself. Itís not this technique or that move that counts. Combinations and techniques are great, but only go so far. Itís all in the attitude.

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