The Path Back to Black Belt

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Are you a black belt or do you have a black belt? When looking at my martial arts activities over the last year, I have determined that there is a difference. At one point in time I was a black belt but now I just have one. This may seem like double talk but there is a point. Having a black belt means that you passed a belt exam and in the eyes of your teachers at that point in time, you were worthy of earning a black belt. Whether or not you are a black belt depends on what you do after that point.

I know several people who earned black belts as kids but have not trained in years. They have a black belt but it would be a stretch to say they are black belts. On the other hand, there are people who touch the martial arts every day. They have proved themselves in testing and continue to live the martial arts experience after the test. Those people are black belts. It is the difference between a trophy and a mindset.

I trained in the martial arts as a child but I injured my knee and required several surgeries so I gave it up. It wasn’t until I was an adult and parent that I got back into the martial arts and earned my black belt. For several years after that I lived the martial arts lifestyle and I considered myself a black belt. Since then my job has gotten more challenging and I had a few injuries that kept me from training consistently. In the last year, my training was intermittent and I after reflecting on it, I no longer consider myself a blackbelt. I just have a black belt.

The people in the schools I train in still consider me a black belt, addressing me as Sabunim or Sensei. The way I look at myself is a personal decision. I have a high standard of what a black belt (the person) is and if I am not meeting those standards, then I need to reevaluate my status in my mind. The good thing is that the status is not permanent.

Taking an honest look at my lifestyle has been a wakeup call for me. As I get older, I need to consider if I want to continue training. Many people do not. I do want to continue training. With that in mind I need to start training more consistently now. I need to get back into shape and I need to touch the martial arts every day. This means making a commitment to myself to pursue the martial arts. Being a black belt is a responsibility. We need to exceed our own standards and set the example for others. There are valid reasons to slow or stop training but that is not the path I want to follow. I am committing to myself to be a black belt rather than just having one. That means that I am committing to consistently work hard and live the martial arts lifestyle.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there is a difference between being and having a black belt? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment.

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