The Meaning Of A Black Belt

By John Ward
Published on Feb 6th, 2009

When I finally achieved my black belt I had to be careful not to let it go to my head. "You are just scratching the surface" I remember my instructor saying to me when I was nearing my black belt. What he meant was you now have a good idea of the tools needed for the job; go out there and make something of yourself, keep an open mind and don't get complacent. Be hungry for knowledge, eat everything you see you now have a knife and fork.

How many people imagined themselves possessing a black belt when they started training? However, it is within your grasp. With hard work and determination, good focus and a strong team behind you, you will achieve your dream. Have the courage to reach out and grab it with both hands. So many students choose to sit back and expect the Instructor to carry them to black belt standard. The instructor will be behind you one hundred and ten per cent, pushing you uphill to your first degree, sweating alongside you, carrying as much of the burden as they can manage, BUT they will not carry you over the top. That final step is up to you only. If your instructor gave you a black belt tomorrow and you have any self respect you would give it back saying no thanks I have to climb the last bit myself.

Wear your black belt with pride and honor in the knowledge that you have put the time in and as much effort as you could into achieving this coveted rank. Hold your head high! You have achieved your dream. Afterwards though don't let yourself or your instructor down by letting it all go in thinking I've read the book, got the t-shirt, now I know it all. Your instructor has invested a lot of time, effort, and knowledge into your training and personnel development.

As black belts, you must be approachable at all times. Your attitude must say "I am a black belt" even when you are not wearing it and you are in the local shop. Try doing a form without your heavyweight suit, wearing only street clothes and make it look sharp. Gone are the days when you stand at the side of the dojo trying to look as hard as possible with your shoulders back chest out, scanning the hall and wishing the class would start so you can relax by letting your chest down before you burst.

You have a black have reached the have your holy grail. Everyone will admire you for getting it, don't disappoint them. Encourage other students who have yet to achieve what you have done. When you spar with them, rather than trying to kill them out of fear of losing face, take the opportunity to teach them.

There are two kinds of respect: the one you get through f ear ("I'm not sparring him he's a black belt" or "he's really good he hammered my friend last week") and the respect you have to earn. If students see you wearing a black belt then they have a good deal of respect from the start.

As instructors do we have any idea how much our students look up and admire us? How much like us they want to be? If we did, it would blow our minds. We have a valued position in the lives of so many people young and old.

Inspire people, be approachable. Take a look around the class some night. You'll see the eyes focused on you, waiting with bated breath for your next command. See what a position you hold. Don't abuse it for your own gain. At the end of the class, make sure you go over and shake hands, talk to the students. They will leave the class buzzing. It is all too easy to take the student standing at the side of the room for granted. How many times have you taken a class and not even noticed him, let alone said anything to him. Just a quick "great job on that technique" or "you're looking really sharp to-night" would acknowledge their presence. It doesn't matter if he is four or forty; he is a member of your club and wants to be just like you. Live up to his expectations an instructor. You should be a good friend, listener, and adviser as well as a teacher.

I have never seen such loyalty and friend ship as that built up on a dojo floor. All my life I have been searching for something to belong to, how can I walk away from it now I have found it?

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Are you a martial artist and have advice or experiences you want to share? If so, contact our editorial team about becoming an author. Be part of our community, contribute an article.