In the Autumn of 2011, preparations were underway for the opening of the Goju Karate dojo in the Strawberry area of Mill Valley, California. The first location for the dojo was a modest one: located in a carriage house that had mats for the floor and was probably about 500 square feet in size.
As part of that effort, insignia for student gi and rank stripes for student belts were needed. The same designs that you see on the chests and shoulders of Goju students today were created, and an order was placed for a thousand chest patches and a thousand shoulder patches.
Similarly, the long rank black rank stripe was designed and an order for a thousand of those was placed. It's the same exact stripe that you've had on some of your rank belts.
In fact, those chest and shoulder patches, and those rank stripes, that were designed and made in the Autumn of 2011 are the same exact ones that are on your gi and on your rank belts.
Because, you see, since one thousand of each of those was produced in 2011, the dojo hasn't needed to re-order them. So the patches and stripes that arrived in Mill Valley, California in October 2011 at the first Goju Karate dojo are the same ones that you proudly wear today.
That is, until now.
The very last two patches were sold at the Goju Karate dojo in New York City this month. There are none left.
And there are about twenty rank stripes left, stored on the Shinzen at the Goju Karate New York City dojo. We expect that those will be awarded in the October 2023 Rank Test, and then none of the original stripes will be left.
A Thousand Proud Karateka
Think of the implications inherent in the supply of these patches and stripes running out.
Rank stripes are, of course, never sold. And they are awarded in only one circumstance: when a karateka has successfully tested at their kyu-rank level (read more on how kyu ranks work) and been awarded a stripe corresponding to their new rank (and of course, those are the odd-numbered ranks: ninth, seventh, fifth, third, and first kyu).
What does all this mean? Over the last dozen years, hundreds of karateka have stood before the shinzen, and been recognized for their hard work, and were awarded a rank stripe. Those karateka have been men and women, boys and girls. They've ranged from ages as young as four and as old as their seventies. Some of them have been students in other martial arts, and other styles of karatedō, and many have never studied any martial art: yet, they all came together to train hard and they've succeeded, and their success has been recognized by the dojo community.
Hundreds of Goju Karateka, Training Hard
And similarly, about a thousand gi have sported the Goju Karate chest and shoulder patch. And while many karateka have multiple gi, we know that hundreds of karateka have trained, practiced, and excelled on the dojo floor wearing those uniform patches.
Those karateka have also ranged in age, and across all of our divisions: juniors barely reaching 3 1/2 feet in height have worn these patches on their uniforms, just like students in our Adult division.
(As an aside, the price of the Chest and the Shoulder patches has remained unchanged since 2011: each was $2.00. Unfortunately, a dozen years later, inflation and supply chain upheavals will move the price to double its original, at $4.00 each, once the new patches arrive at the dojo).
An Unbroken Chain, Soaring
A thousand karateka have worn those patches, and been awarded those rank stripes. And the first time those men and women, those boys and girls, have put on a gi with those patches, and every single time they've stood before the shinzen and loosened their rank belt and received a well-deserved rank stripe, their spirits have soared just a little bit higher.
Ultimately, this is the measure of our karatedō.
We train to forge stronger spirits. We train to raise our own intensity (read more about intensity), and we train to hone our own fighting spirit.
Through all of our hard work, we've brought that karatedo to hundreds of people – maybe quite close to a thousand at this point.
So the uniform patches have run out, and the rank stripes have nearly all been awarded. But no need to worry: the original designs (first done in Photoshop, and a dozen years later, now in Pixelmator Pro) have been used to order a new run of a thousand chest, a thousand shoulder, and a thousand rank stripes.
In a few weeks, the Front Desk will have the new supply of uniform patches, available to be sewn onto new gi. And in early October, the shinzen will be the home of a thousand more rank stripes.
And over the next decade, another thousand spirits will soar.