A thought occurred to me. When I was a white belt, I used to pride myself on being quicker than the higher grades. If we were doing, say low block, front kick, double punch for example, I used to endeavour to finish the combo before my higher grade peers. I'd take pleasure from achieving such. They didn't seem to bat an eyelid, sometimes to my frustration.
Now I'm fairly high grade for a low grade. And I see the lower grades finishing before me, and I don't care, because I'm not racing them, I'm focusing on the techniques. I know that if it comes to actual combat I'll do whatever instinct manages to drive me to do in the cloud of chaos and adrenaline and panic but in the safe environment of line drill I'm more focused on training my brain to fire the right muscles in the right order to make an awkward move feel natural. I want to visualise the technique.
I see it like making a curry. The beginner might simply add the hot spices until it blows your head off. The more experienced chef will add the right spices in the right order to build a depth of flavour.
Which kind of brings me on to the paradox of the grade. As a white belt, the total beginner belt, I was certain that a kick was a kick, a block was a block, and perfection meant doing these things faster and with more power. Now, I realise that there are so many principles at play, a kick is about balance, timing, focus, the chamber is about ensuring you don't simply smash your own toes off among other things, etc etc, so much depth of flavour, and I realise I am less sure now than I was as a white belt.
I've taken the decision not to grade further until I get my head round this, but I'm not even sure that's right.