Every Black Belt test provides me with an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.  The one next Saturday is no different…

There is a saying that goes:

Those who are interested do what is convenient.  Those who are committed do whatever it takes.

I think this sums up Black Belt Training pretty well.  Black Belt Training is not a matter of convenience, it is a matter of commitment.  If you are attempting to earn your Black Belt, then Martial Arts is what you do.  It is a very large part of your life.  Sacrifices will be made in order to reach Black Belt.  There is simply no way around it.   

When I trained for my first degree, I was training 5 or 6 days a week.  While I don’t expect students to do this…  if you think that you will train 2, sometimes 3 classes per week and earn your Black Belt or degrees of Black…  you really need to shift your perspective.  You will be unprepared and it will be embarrassingly obvious.

Many parents and students wish it were easier to achieve Black Belt.  They wish that we would modify our schedule to meet their individual needs.   They wish it were less expensive.  They wish that they didn’t have to actually make a time commitment.

All of this goes against what Black Belt Training is all about.  The fact of the matter is you can get a Black Belt for $5.00 from any martial arts store.  The difference is, you can’t earn it that way. 

Black Belt Training is about becoming a Martial Artist.  It is about commitment.  It is about doing the right thing.  It is about doing whatever it takes to achieve your goal.  And it is about integrity.

The process is representative of anything that is worth achieving in life.  A College Degree, Masters, PhD, or MD.  Raising Children.  Marriage.  Getting a Raise or Promotion.  Saving for Retirement.  Paying for College.  The list goes on and on…

Earning a Black Belt is simply preparation and practice for life.  The irony is that quite often how someone handles their Black Belt Training is usually how they operate in life…  including quitting before they get there.

When the time comes…  at the end of the test…  when you are kneeling there with your eyes closed…  one of two thoughts will occur to you.  Either “I wish I had.” or “I’m glad I did.”

You will either be fully satisfied that you did everything in your power (including the sacrifices that needed to be made) and that you truly earned your Black Belt or progress stripe.  Or, you will know in your heart of hearts that you cut corners and didn’t really meet the requirements. 

Remember that this is your martial arts experience.  I have found over the years, the more I get out of the way, the better it is for the student.  The environment is the best teacher and what a lesson it would be to experience such an integrity problem.

Your martial arts is your responsibility.  And if you have a child in the program under the age of 21…  you share that responsibility with your child whether you want to or not.  If they quit or cut corners…  so did you. 

Finally, I usually don’t walk up to someone and tell them they are not ready for first degree or for a progress stripe (although, I will do that for degrees of Black Belt).  Why?  First, it is impossible for me to know if they did everything they could.  For example, did they REALLY need to miss those classes?  Did they REALLY give their training 100%?  Only they would know.

And second, I would be potentially getting in the way of a very valuable life lesson.  One which they could benefit from for the rest of their life.  Being a Black Belt means taking responsibility for your actions.  If you accept a belt you didn’t earn, you are going to have to live with that.  Its part of the responsibility.

Usually, in the martial arts, students place the decision for readiness and of earning a Black Belt on the Chief Instructor of the school.  I disagree with this mentality.  I can’t make you a Black Belt.  You need to choose to become one. 

Train Right.

Master Dan
Stryker Martial Arts Inc.