Sensei (actually Shihan now he's a fifth dan) asked us to name the one necessary requirement for grading to black belt. We suggested discipline, fitness, five years' training, bribes (that was me, and I got a laugh), but the answer was: train twice a week, minimum.
"In the past," he said, "there's been an attitude that if you don't go as often you'll still get there, it'll just take longer. You won't. You need to train twice a week to get sharp enough and fast enough for that grade."
That's me stuffed, then.
I'm not going to say I can't train more often. I've been reading a lot, lately, about priorities, and if karate was at the top of my list I could rearrange my life to suit.
For the last ten years, I've tried to keep Tuesday and Thursday evenings free. Sometimes there's a gig or other event I really want to go to; sometimes a friend I want to see can only do one of those evenings. These things happen, and I'll go back to two classes the next week. It takes me a long time to reach the next belt - two or three years - but I'm not especially athletic and I thought I was just doing it at my own pace. Suddenly, that's not good enough. (There are classes on other nights, and if you can't make your regular class you're encouraged to go to an alternative one. But that's another evening tied up in an already busy week.)
So I feel guilty for not trying hard enough, but also resentful that something I do for fun, of my own free will, has become an obligation, and sad that I may never make black belt unless I sacrifice something else in my life for moar karate.
Still, we did learn the numbers from 11 to 20 in Japanese. We've only ever gone up to ten before!