What does it take to be a black belt?
- In the words of a child: A black belt is a white belt that never gave up.
In the words of Frank Lloyd Write: “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen”
The accomplishment of any worthwhile goal is not a quick and easy task. It requires setting the goal, and dedicating yourself to reaching that goal. Persistence, regardless of when the tasks are easy, when they’re difficult, in the face of all obstacles… these are the things that lead to success.
In choosing to embark on the path of martial arts, there are many goals that can be focused on, with the ultimate goal of course being becoming a black belt. Everyone has their own notion of what this means. This personal meaning, however, does not change the traits required to make the goal happen. Along path of pursuit, students face inevitable challenges as they test their mental and physical limitations. Drawing on dedication and persistence towards the goal at hand, those white belts that never give up meet each presented challenge, push past their limits, and overcome obstacles.
In the process, valuable lessons are learned, strength of character is built, and a person worthy of a black belt is formed.
- In the words of a child: A student has to be a black belt in their heart before they can wear one around their waist.
In the words of Rick English: “A black belt is nothing more than a belt that goes around your waist. Being a black belt is a state of mind and attitude.”
While reaching the level of black belt is certainly a great achievement, the formal success of reaching it is just that, a formality. The mental and physical strength that are required to reach such a level is the true reward. One who has dedicated themselves to this challenge from the beginning, in the form of martial arts, already has the mentality of a black belt.
A black belt is a symbol. As previously stated, the exact meaning of this symbol can vary slightly from person to person, but in essence it represents a certain strength of character. It shows that a student had the perseverance to conquer the challenges that accompany the exploration of martial arts. This is a mentality and attitude that must be present long before the black belt itself.
- In the words of a child: A black belt never leaves anyone behind.
In the words of Stan Lee: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility”
A black belt attains a certain level of power. They have learned and acquired particular skills in agility and strength, physical control, mental acuity. With such skills also comes the increased sense of responsibility to help those who are weaker in any way. These individuals have developed a sense of what it is to be selfless, to acknowledge the importance of community and teamwork, above the narrow focus on oneself.
It may sound cliché or idealistic, but the truth of this is obvious. The strong help the weak. Period. Those who have learned a valuable skill, who have developed physical strength, who have harnessed the power of mental focus, have a duty to share the value outside themselves. Small minds stay focused only on themselves, open minds, like those presumably created in the process of attaining a black belt, extend their focus to fellow human beings.