Sensei Britni: What it Means to be a Black Belt?
First off: thank you for supporting School of the Tiger in 2019 and for your continued support in 2020. It has been a wonderful opportunity teaching your children and I appreciate the feedback that you have felt comfortable sharing with me.
Every once in a while, I will write on this blog about a variety of topics. Just to point out: this is all my opinion and my experience. Every martial arts journey shapes the martial artist differently.
I'm going to take a step back and start back in 2005. I was 12 years old. I was very scared, insecure, overweight/out of shape, etc. My parents felt that karate would help me build my confidence. I walked in to my first class nervous and so scared. I almost walked out the door and made my parents get a refund because I did not want to try this class. It wasn't until the instructor, Shihan Jack Raderchak, came over and introduced himself. My dad had to give me a kind, gentle push, but never the less: I went and participated in my first class. From there, you could say: the rest is history; however, it is history that is important.
The most common question asked in class is: "How many of you want a black belt?" In the class, most of the class raises their hand. Do most of these people end up getting a black belt? To be very honest: no.
Something that I am working on improving in class is asking with my students about the responsibilities of being a black belt.
A black belt is not just a colored belt. It's the representation of a journey.
Being a black belt is so much more than just being able to do what you want to do. It's taking on the responsibility of working with someone who was just as nervous as you were when you started. It's encouraging someone to try a technique that they might be scared to try. It's the acceptance that you are willing to continue to improve and learn something new when you come into class.
So what does it mean to be a black belt? To me, it's making sure that every child that walks into the class feels comfortable and safe enough to try something that can create anxiety. It means fighting someone that you may have never fought or have fought several times. It means not being afraid to ask questions. It means showing determination and never giving up.
To me: being a black belt means striving to become a better instructor for my students. The only way I am able to do that is through practice. For those who listen while I'm trying something new: thank you. I wouldn't be able to even think about trying some of things I've tried if it weren't for your patience and encouragement.
I've been researching and finding a lot of quotes about karate lately. I wanted to share one that I personally love and it serves as a reminder for my meaning of being a black belt and can hopefully inspire someone out there.
"A black belt is nothing more than a belt, a piece of cloth. Your ultimate goal should not be to get your black belt. Your ultimate goal should be to be a black belt. Being a black belt is a state of mind, a way of life." - Bohdi Sanders