Becoming a black belt is not just about knowing your kata and having a good standard of kihon and kumite. It goes much deeper than just the physical. Those of us that are privileged to wear the belt should understand the roles and responsibilities that come with it.
When a student puts on their black belt they automatically become a role model. Other students, especially children, look upon black belt students/instructors with a sense of awe. It is all they want to become…it is what many, if not most people start training in karate for in the first place. Earning your black belt and reaching the required standard is a fantastic achievement, similar to earning a university degree. You receive your black belt and a certificate to go with it. That’s the tangible evidence that you have made the grade.
However, the real evidence of being a true black belt is in the way we think and conduct ourselves, inside and outside the dojo. Being a black belt is an attitude, a belief that the unspoken code of integrity, honour and etiquette should be upheld at all times. If someone has incredible physical ability but has a poor attitude towards others, then they are an incomplete yudansha.
Some examples of the right black belt attitude are:
• edify seniors at all times
• never allowing others to de-edify seniors, or even other students for that matter
• show respect and courtesy inside and outside the dojo to all people
• maintain a good training ethic
• display excellent etiquette at all times
• be willing to help lower grade students
Everyone ages… it’s inevitable. There will come a time for all of us when our physical ability will start to diminish as we get older. That doesn’t mean that our black belt attitude has to diminish. With the right frame of mind we can still continue to train and receive the great benefits of martial arts, and still have all of the traits that make us wholesome black belts. Remember though, when we get older and our physical ability wains, and we have the wrong attitude, then at the end of the day we will have nothing.
The most important thing is to have a clear idea of what it means to wear/be a black belt. You must show maturity of mind and always have the right martial spirit. It is reassuring to know that to wear a black belt means that you have earned it and are among the best at your level. It is our responsibility to ensure that the black belt is never disgraced or brought into disrepute. Wear it with pride, but also show humility and remember it is always a privilege to wear the black belt each and every time we put it on, not a right.