Think Beyond Black Belt
I am truthfully thinking about a small change to our Student Creed… “We are a Black Belt School…” The actual meaning and intent of saying this is to say that we should all live by the principles of Black Belt and have the attitude of a Black Belt. Unfortunately, I think many people and many students misinterpret this part of our Creed to mean, Black Belt is the end of karate training. Once I get my Black Belt, there’s no more to learn and no farther to go. Nothing could be farther from the truth…
In my own journey of nearly 22 years, and having attained a 5th Degree Black Belt, the one thing that has become crystal clear is how little I know in the grand scheme of Okinawan Karate. Some people find this puzzling. How, after so many years, can you not know EVERYTHING? Without getting into details, please trust me when I say that when I train with my seniors and see the things they know and are capable of I literally feel like a White Belt again. Plus, you must understand that with Karate training, in order to maintain sharp skills, fast defensive reflexes and reactions, and speed and power in your technique, you must continue training. It’s life long, not a season or something you do for a year or two. You may hear the term Karate-Do… Do means “the way”. This is a life protection art and skill, it’s not something we play to win a game. Grandmaster Gichin Funakoshi once said, “Karate is like boiling water. When you remove the heat, it returns to its tepid state.”
So, in my opinion, how should we think? The answer is simple… think like a beginner thinks. Embrace the fact that you will never know everything or become perfect, though that is what we strive for. Always be eager to learn more, train hard and be humble no matter what rank you wear. Understand that getting your Junior Black Belt or 1st Degree is only the very beginning of your study of karate. You have solid basic skills at this point, but actually very little understanding of what your karate is capable of. Maybe we should say “We are a Red Belt School” because that more accurately fits what our training should be… a lifelong pursuit of physical, mental and spiritual betterment. Embrace the idea of “Shoshin” which translates to “Beginner’s Mind.” After all, isn’t knowledge, skill, and high moral character far more important than the piece of cloth you wrap around your waist? Karate should become a part of you, not just something you squeeze into your schedule twice per week.