What does it mean to achieve black belt?
For many studying the martial arts, black belt is the goal to work towards, and even those who have little interest or knowledge of martial arts have some idea of what black belt means. If I am speaking to someone new and the topic of my training comes up, inevitably the first question that is asked is whether I have a black belt or not. What does it really mean to be a black belt however?
When people learn you have the rank of black belt in one form of martial art or another, there is the general thinking that you can handle yourself well in a fight, and are in fairly good physical condition. This may well be the case, yet the idea of the black belt is more than this. The black belt means simply that you have not given up, you have worked hard and acquired a certain level of skill in the chosen art. I remember being told once that a high percentage of people stop doing martial arts after achieving black belt, as for them, the goal has been reached. They have the certificate, they have the black belt, and they have the right to say they are black belt. For them the goal has been reached. This is the wrong way to look at it in my opinion however. Black belt is simply the second step on a very large flight of stairs! The first step is making the decision to study a particular martial art, choosing to go up the grades and progress which in itself can take any number of years. Black belt is simply the second step, recognizing some technical ability, but recognizing more than you continue to come to class, work hard and seek to improve yourself. Black belt is not the destination, it is just one pit stop on the very long journey…
With the rank of black belt comes responsibility as well. You are there to set an example to other students who may well wish to achieve their black belt one day. You may start instructing and imparting the knowledge that has been acquired over the years studying your martial art. All this comes with responsibility to represent your art, and to set the tone for other lower graded students.
The black belt itself means very little, but it signifies that perhaps you are ready to study the art in more detail, and acknowledges the hard work and effort put into your training. As already said, it is just one stop on a very long journey :). An interesting discussion with more detail on this can be found here
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