thomascliffordsmartialarts.com
Earning Your Black Belt - A Challenging Journey Of Self-Awareness
"Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Dear Friend, I trust this blog finds you well. Are you excited about Black Belt testing? I am. As you know, there are levels to Black Belt. We generally refer to these levels as “Degrees.” Our knowledge, skill, and how effectively we represent our Martial Arts training, is expected to improve as we advance in rank. That is why the “bloom never leaves the rose” when it comes to the Martial Arts. If you have not yet achieved your Black Belt, the following will give you some insight. If you have earned your Black Belt, please allow yourself the pleasure of “renewing” your perspective. Black Belt candidates are extraordinarily eager to accept the responsibility that comes with their promotion. This is necessary for a Dojo to grow and mature. When a Dojo has a strong culture, everyone feels honored and privileged to be on the mat with eager beginners and experienced Black Belts. Black Belt essays are always well written and very inspiring. Everyone enjoys reading them, but the real value comes from writing them. Words are powerful, particularly when we commit them to paper. The essay assignment is a fantastic way to bring greater clarity to your own perception of the Martial Arts, Black Belt, and your training. The Black Belt run always proves to be a wonderful way to measure how effectively you have approached your training, and how well you understand it. It requires courage to get out on that track and face your deficiencies. "You must be persistent, or you will not make progress. You must be patient, or you will pay a price." -Anonymous What else does earning your Black Belt run reveal? I believe that it reveals a big part of who you are. It gives us an opportunity to conquer our weaknesses. The journey to Black Belt is a great way to measure our ability to set and achieve a definite goal in a specific period of time. It allows us to make a promise and keep it, or wiggle out of it. I enjoy the objective reality of the Black Belt run. The majority of Martial Arts training is subjective. Much of it is abstract. It is difficult to evaluate. The run is concrete. It is measurable. It is a simple, but significant way to demonstrate honesty and integrity. It is powerful way to remind us of the need for humility, which manifests in courtesy and harmony. The Black Belt run requires tenacity. None of these qualities can be controlled and coordinated, without self discipline. If this sounds strange, you have not been on that track running your 12 laps. Your instructor will not be at the run pretending to be the inspiration behind your success (or the excuse behind you failure). That would pervert the purpose of the exercise. You are in control, or it would not exemplify self discipline. Finally, the Black Belt run, like the Black Belt Course and Black Belt Consciousness, requires a non-quitting spirit. In order for the run to have meaning and value, you have to "want to quit." Some of us want to quit before we even get to the track. Others want to quit after just a few steps. Many consider throwing in the towel after a lap or two. When did you feel like giving up? If you did not, you should have picked a better challenge. The run did not serve you, or its purpose. I happen to know for a fact, that some of us "felt" like quitting on every single step around the track. That is why the accomplishment is so meaningful. A Martial Arts lifestyle is only as rewarding as it is challenging. The most substantial benefits of your training will not occur until you have really wanted to quit. That is why I am so encouraged when a parent tells me that their child wants to quit. They always appear irritated or offended when I say, "that's good." It is good, because it presents us with an opportunity to cultivate a non-quitting spirit - which is without a doubt, the greatest benefit anyone can gain from participation in the Martial Arts. Here are a few questions for you to consider: 1. What are the events and experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today? 2. What accomplishments are you most proud of? 3. What 3 events or experiences that you were in control of, do you regret most? 4. If you have done the Black Belt run, was the experience an accurate metaphor of your life? 5. How would your life look right now, if you gave up in the face of serious adversity? 6. What are you going to do about it? The run certainly has tremendous physical benefits. Do not make the mistake of reducing the diagnostic and developmental value of the Black Belt run, to cardiovascular exercise. But then again, that benefit alone just might save your life! I look forward to seeing you and your family in class at the Dojo. Respectfully, Kyoshi Thomas Clifford