Many parents look to the martial arts to help them teach their children discipline. It is a smart move. The spirit of discipline that the martial arts offers is a positive force on all students that experience it. Even the students that don’t stick with martial arts can carry a sense of discipline beyond the […]
Accepting a personal challenge can be a rite of passage. A strenuous hike, climbing a mountain or swimming in open water can all offer personal risk, the chance for failure and are something you can take pride in if you achieve it. These are challenges that you do for yourself, planning and executing a strategy […]
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.
Thanks for reading!
I know a few people who carry a knife for defense as well as utility. For the longest time, I did not find the value in it. After attending some seminars, I now understand why people would use it as a defense item. I still would not, because I am not proficient in the techniques and in a defense situation a poorly understood technique can be more dangerous than no technique.
Many of the people that say they would use their knife for defense never train in it. The closest they come is cutting an apple or a piece of twine. I believe that they are putting themselves in more danger by carrying a tool that they don’t know how to use or would have trouble using when they are under stress.
Many knife holders think that the act of carrying is a defense strategy. If people do not train with the tool, they are setting themselves up for disappointment. A knife is not a shield. Just having it on your person or even holding it in your hand will not save you. You need to know how to use it and more importantly you need to be able to use it in a stressful situation.
To become proficient in defense, you need to train against other people. The touch and fight back factors are where the rubber hits the road. If you do not have another person in front of you for at least some of your training, you are not ready to defend yourself, especially if you are expecting to defend yourself with some kind of weapon. Many people who carry a weapon don’t practice with it and if they do, they do not practice with it in a defense scenario.
At this point in my training I use the knife for fun and education. I do not carry a blade but I am beginning to understand why some of my training partners do. If used properly, the knife can be a great defense weapon. The problem is that you can go from defense to excessive force with one wrong move. You need to be cognizant of how you are using your tools in self-defense. Without proper training, you can kill someone or hurt them beyond the bounds of self-defense.
Just like a weapon, a self-defense plea is not a shield. You need to mind your response. Excessive force can put you in jail along with your attacker. Remember that self-defense is also keeping yourself out of jail. You need to be thoroughly trained and you need to practice with any weapons system you want to employ for defense.
I went to an interesting weapons seminar. It was based on the zombie apocalypse. Since zombies move slowly, we were able to practice our techniques at a slower speed. After working the techniques in drills, we practiced against live attackers, first a single attacker, then multiple attackers. It gave you a real feel for person on person conflict. They were suited up with protective gear so we could realistically strike with training blades rather than just simulating the strike.
Working with aggressive attackers (suited up training partners) and having the ability to execute realistic strikes was an eye-opening experience. But even this was not fully realistic because we started with the training blade in our hands. A knife in a sheath or folded in your pocket adds more complication in a defense situation. Retrieving the blade also needs to be trained if you are going to use a knife in defense. A knife is not a good defense option if it is stuck in your pocket or somewhere else where you cannot reasonably access it.
I am lucky that I live and work in areas that have lower chances for violent attack. I feel comfortable enough with my open hand techniques that I do not feel the need to carry a knife. For those who do feel the need, find a good teacher to teach you the proper techniques, practice in realistic situations regularly and remember that excessive force can put you, the victim, in jail along with your attacker.
As I have mentioned in earlier articles, one of my teacher equates martial arts with walking. When we are white belts, we are like toddlers just standing and holding onto the couch as we stumble along. As we develop, we don’t need to hold on to things any more but we still stumble along. As we continue to walk, we get better and better until we master walking.
How do we master walking? By doing it every day. The same applies to martial arts. If we are to reach our full potential in martial arts, we need to work it every day.
This does not mean going to class seven days a week. Just like when we were back in school, martial arts require homework. You need to work on your own every day, even if you do go to classes. Working on your own makes you think about the moves. You cannot follow the leader. It also lets you do it at the speed you are comfortable with. Sometimes classes can push you along so you just go through the motions. Doing it on your own makes the techniques sink in.
I work on groups of my techniques every day. There are too many to do them all. I choose groups of techniques to practice and I rotate them. On weekends, I add more than I do on workdays. I found that training first thing in the morning is a great way to get motivated for my day and I don’t put it off because of things that happen later in the day.
I go to classes three to four days a week. I train a few styles and I am no grand master. I need to go to class often to hone my techniques. Self-study is an enhancement of, not a replacement for teacher led classes.
Lastly, when I go to bed, I visualize my techniques in my head. If I go to bed before my wife, I do the breathing cadence along with the technique, otherwise I do it silently. Doing the techniques in my head is better than counting sheep. It puts me right to sleep and it helps me retain the moves.
Whether you are competing, preparing yourself for defense or looking for a certain state of mind, working your martial arts every day will help you reach your goals.
Self-defense has been on my mind lately. The news is filled with violent protests and attacks; the internet has been filled with self-defense videos and advertisements for classes; and people I know have been asking me about how they can defend themselves.
The need to defend oneself has been front and center in a lot of people’s minds. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to self-defense. How one defends oneself depends on a several factors:
- Location – are there avenues for escape or defensible cover?
- Tool Available – are there implements at your disposal to help you defend or escape?
- Skill Level – Do you have the proper skillsets to defend yourself?
- Condition – Are you physically fit enough or did the initial attack leave you in adequate condition to defend or escape?
- Responsibility – Are there people with you for whom you are responsible?
Every situation can be a little different but that does not mean that you can’t prepare. To prepare you need to do a few things that may be uncomfortable for you.
- Assess your physical fitness. If you are at a large venue event and there is a situation, do you have the energy/ability to run a half mile to an exit? If you cannot or if you are with people who cannot, running away is not an option. So if you are out of shape or if you are with grandma and there is a problem, you need a solution that does not include running.
- Assess your skills. – Are you properly trained to defend yourself? Doing punches and kicks in line or even sparring does not fully prepare you to defend yourself. I was at a seminar primarily for blackbelts from a variety of styles. This seminar was on countering quick and violent attack. Many of the practitioners had trouble coping in the spontaneous environment. This shock can be exacerbated with the introduction of a weapon. Are you ready to face a dynamic violent situation?
- Determine your attitude on violence – Are you prepared to hurt someone to defend yourself or others. If you are not prepared to hurt someone, possibly severely, you need to come up with a different plan.
Defense is a personal decision. It really depends on you. Be honest with yourself in assessing your condition and your skills. Improve yourself if you can, but always be honest with yourself. If you cannot or will not do certain things to defend yourself, prepare yourself in other ways.