The “Other” Black Belt Requirements
by Shannon Pearce
As we’ve all seen, the requirements for advancing to our next rank has been laid out quite nicely in the new manuals. As Mr. Burt said, these have always been the requirements; we are now going to make sure they are all met before testing. My mind has been going over these and I realized for me, this didn’t cover all of the requirements I should set for myself if I really want to get the most out of my training.
So, with that in mind, in no particular order are the other requirements I am going to place on myself:
I must completely devote and submit myself to the process. This doesn’t mean I place all my focus on karate and ignore everything else in my life or become a mindless karate robot, I keep the balance. What this means is I have a willingness to make sacrifices in other areas of my life to create the time necessary to reap the benefits the training can bring and I understand that all the requirements in place to advance rank are there for a reason. I decided to look at the practice time I need and thought about some facts:
1. The entire system of self-defense techniques can be run through 3rd Degree Black Belt in under one hour. This can be accomplished running at a moderate pace, not really “cranking it out”. By attending the Black Belt class on Saturday morning, I’m already doing this.
2. The entire system of kata can be run through Long 6 (5th Degree Black Belt) in under 25 minutes. Again, running at that moderate pace, not really going for broke. And, by attending the advanced classes, I’m running all katas through The Tiger and The Crane twice per week, weapons katas once per week and 2nd/3rd Degree Black Belt katas once per week.
So, using these numbers, if I used the time I’m not in class to get some additional reps on techniques and kata, practiced hands on and worked on material I will be creating for 4th Degree Black Belt, I would only need about 1-2 hours per WEEK to train outside of class. This is only 20 – 40 minutes per day, 3 days per week or less time per day if I spread it over 4 days.
I then looked at myself regarding submitting to the process. For me, this simply means even if I don’t agree with a requirement, it is there for a reason and that reason has my best interests at heart. Besides, if I train with meeting all requirements in mind, my feelings towards them will change over time once I see the benefits they bring me.
Each and every time I come to class and work towards earning the next belt rank, I should always be improving. I should expect more of myself as I progress in my training. By developing a practice habit and coming to class twice per week by devoting myself, this improvement should happen. Again, it’s about the sacrifices that must be made and the willingness to make them. Each progression of belt rank in the system should show that I am setting a goal of constant improvement. I should be sitting lower in my horse stances than ever before, using my kiai, hitting harder every rep each and every time and always putting 100% into what I am doing. My skill level at my current rank of 3rd Degree Black Belt should be much improved from what it was at 2nd Degree Black Belt and in turn, my skill level at 4th Degree Black Belt must be much improved from where I am today. In other words, the higher the rank, the more I should expect from myself.
Changes in my Moral Conduct must be made to enhance and improve my training. This is a tougher area to tackle because while it does include my first two requirements, it also involves what I do outside of the martial arts training. I must have a willingness to make changes and sacrifices in my personal life. This means changing my eating habits, exercising more, losing weight, get more sleep etc. Whatever these may be, without making the changes, my training will suffer and my requirement of constant improvement will not happen. This requires taking a long look at who I am and where I am in the training to make an honest assessment. This isn’t always where I want to place my focus, but it is a necessary task.
I must be involved with the school. When I began my training, I made a commitment and this should also reflect in the time I spend supporting the school. I show support by attending tournaments regularly beyond the minimum that is required, coming to monthly belt exams and cheering on the candidates and helping out with functions within and outside the school. I decided to take it a step further and become an instructor when the offer was made. Again, I do keep the balance and don’t ignore everything else in life, but I felt this was a way to be involved as much as possible. Tournaments at a minimum are a must for me to attend as this is a great tool for “sharpening the sword” and honing in the skill as a martial artist. By both competing and working at tournaments, I have created a deeper appreciation for the art and how it is performed by others. In addition, fund raisers like the car washes, parties and 1000 push up classes are great ways to for me to help and be supportive.
In closing, to sum this up, for me there is a huge difference in doing karate and being a martial artist. In my mind, doing karate is coming to class twice per week, meeting the minimum requirements and nothing more. Being a martial artist is about making the sacrifices and changes necessary to achieve constant improvement. It is something I can do as long as the willingness to follow my other requirements exists. Keep moving forward, never look back and remember:
“Your Attitude, not your Aptitude will ultimately determine your Altitude. “ (Bob Mowad)