Achieving a black belt means different things to different people. It’s something that’s aspired to when we first start training, but what happens when we get there? For the most part many of us are happy to train each week and improve our basics, keeping our sights on the short term goal of our next grade, with the prospect of a black belt being so far away it is barely worth mentioning or even that its achievable.
However time and commitment have a strange way of creeping our goals towards us and before you know it ‘POW’ your Instructor hits you with the news that you will be coming up for assessment. The panic starts to slowly build and the realisation that you have more work to do to refine your kata, sharpen technique, more hips, more everything and the big one ‘quick, I’d better get fit’.
There’s going to be a few things that are ‘expected’ of you when you wear a black belt, to find these out simply spend 5 minutes and write a list of what you feel it means to be a black belt, or if you’re an instructor simply ask your students. You can suddenly feel you have a lot to live up to, or to improve upon.So here, lies the key ‘Improve on’. Improve on what? Your karate? That’s a given. Improve on yourself! Black belt is recognition of a level achieved, but there are a few traits that it takes people till black belt to develop.
Develop a black belt attitude towards your training, seeing the way senior grades do the simplest of things, such as standing in line, senior grades are sometimes the best students, because they know ‘how’ to be a good student, listening to and applying corrections, paying attention, working hard.
Its about what or who you become in order to achieve a black belt, the journey of personal development, that will see you grow as a person who can be looked up to as a role model by others. Don’t imagine for a moment that what others think of you doesn’t matter. They’ll be watching every action and listening to every word you say and drawing their conclusions about you, your instructors and your club based on what you say and do.
Black belt – Money can’t buy achievement.
Leadership – Personal discipline and a role model to others.
Attitude – A positive can-do ethic, that says more about you than words can.
Confidence – Grows as you do, I can’t remember the last time I met a shy black belt.
Knowledge – The more you know the more you grow, pass it on.
Belief – In yourself, you will get there, when? You set the goal.
Enthusiasm – Get excited about improving and achieving now.
Learning – Be open to it, approach your training with an open mind.
Teamwork – You, your instructor and your family want the same thing.
Look to your right and out in front when you’re standing in line and look for the qualities you would like to adopt, and think about the kind of person you would like to be as a black belt, write down all those traits you admire and try to improve on them at every opportunity. Most dojos don’t have mirrors so use your instructor and become a bright reflection of them. It was said in films like Spiderman and Kung fu Hustle, “with great power, comes great responsibility”, with growing skill, ability and personal development ensure you become a black belt role model to live up to.