BEING vs HAVING a Black Belt


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The large majority of our Karate training is physical. We are punching, kicking, blocking, calisthenics, etc. We do a lot of different drills to continuously improve those skills and, if we work long and hard enough, this will eventually lead to earning a Black Belt.

There is another level to our training, however, and this other level is what differentiates between us HAVING a Black Belt and BEING a Black Belt.

Given enough dedicated time, study, and effort I’m confident that most people could gain the skills worthy of HAVING a Black Belt (note: I don’t believe MOST people will ever do this, however). Given this dedicated amount of time, most people would be able to have a solid punch, be competent with several different kicks, perform and have a strong understanding of their Kata, and show good skill in their Kumite.

This requires showing up to class regularly and challenging yourself to continuously improve. Most anyone can do this if they choose to and they can HAVE a Black Belt.

If you have been to the dojo more than once, then you must have seen a copy of our Virtues. Modesty, Courtesy, Integrity, Compassion, Self-Control, Perseverance, Gratitude, and Indomitable Spirit. These are the Virtues of a Black Belt. Study, practice, and application of these Virtues is that other level of our training that I was referring to, that takes you from having your Black Belt to BEING a Black Belt. This is what can add much more meaning to your training and take it to another level that you might not have considered when you started your training.

And of course, working on these virtues is an ongoing thing. I can always find ways to improve on practicing these virtues, especially ones that aren’t necessarily my strong point. For example, I have made some major changes in my life the last number of years to help improve Compassion which I recognized as being much lower than I would ever want it to be at one time in my life. I still wouldn’t refer to it as a strength of mine, but it has certainly risen to a level that would not have been possible without that concentrated effort.

Of course I can always improve on my Karate. This is obvious each time I am in a class. My Katas need plenty of work and same with Kumite, conditioning, sparring, etc. I’m certainly nowhere near the best I can be, and that is why I keep showing up. Same with the Virtues, they need plenty of work in my life as well and I actively look for ways to improve on them. It is the mindset of actively working towards improving that allows me to BE a Black Belt and not just HAVE a Black Belt.

Keep this mindset in your training and you can say with confidence what rank you ARE, and not just what rank you have.

Train hard and with intent! Thank you for your time.

-john g


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