Little House In Ise

Shoshinsha Mark
February 20, 2008, 14:07
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , , ,

Shoshinsha Mark

The shoshinsha (初心者 : beginner) mark is green and yellow chevron used in Japan to indicate that a person is new at something. This originated as a mark that could be attached to cars so that other drivers would easily recognize drivers who were new to the road. Whether this actually works to reduce traffic accidents is anyone’s guess but culturally they have become a pervasive concept. I have seen newly hired cashiers at the super market with little chevrons on their name tags to indicate they are noobs. This is a culturally specific icon that I would like to see exported from Japan.

If you study Aikido long enough you will come across the idea of returning to shoshin or returning to basics/the beginning. There are quite a few interpretations of what this means but the one that I cling to is this. Even if you have achieved some level of success at something, don’t get cocky. Don’t let your ego swell as it will likely just get in the way of further progress. If you train with someone who is lower or even much lower than you in rank there is still a lot that they can teach you. To learn you need to actively look for what they can teach — as with anything. It may not be technique or ukemi that they teach you but there is something that can be taken away from most situations. I can’t claim perfection. My ego puffs up at the slightest compliment which usually causes my next techniques to look like a pile of ass.

A little shoshinsha mark on the end of my belt would be an ongoing, physical, reminder to _me_ that I need to return to basics, that I am a beginner. Practically, it might also reduce the in-dojo pile-ups.

There is a university gasshuku (合宿) being held at Aikikai Honbu this week. There were so many more bodies on the mat that we needed four ranks plus stragglers to get everyone in rather than the normal three (plus stragglers). Most of these folks were young, energetic, excited to be at honbu and raring to go. So there were a lot of really pumped up college kids moving fast and throwing bodies around. At one point, my uke threw me in such a way that I tripped, backwards, over another pile of four that had been created in a previous collision. There were no injuries but many apologies. It also was the origin of my idea to put a little chevron on the belts of people who are beginners and those who need to remember that they are beginners.

Happy rolling!


1 Comment so far
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You left a comment on my blog a couple of weeks ago, encouraging me in Aikido. I just wanted to let you know I appreciated the support.

After only a few days there, I’m continually challenged but not discouraged. My “beginner” training consisted of one quick day of rolls and how to bow in and out, and then I was thrown (literally) into the regular class, which feels premature, but it is what it is…

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed reading some of your blog.

I actually was wondering about the shoshinsha just this week, after noticing it on the back of a car! So thanks…

Comment by Spencer

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