What does a Black Belt mean? Ask 10 martial arts instructors and you’re bound to get 10 different answers. A better question might be, “What does a Black Belt mean to you?” I don’t think that there is an objective, universal answer, so I challenge you to ponder this question for yourself.
It might help to start by thinking about what a Black Belt is not. In my opinion, a Black Belt does not necessarily mean that person is the toughest person around, and someone who abuses their body with drugs or an unhealthy lifestyle is certainly not practicing Black Belt excellence. They may have a belt around their waist that happens to be black, but until they make the adjustments and work to get back on track they are not truly a Black Belt. I believe that such a person could become a Black Belt once more, but again, these are my beliefs, and I challenge you to think about this for yourself.
I wish that I could tell you that once you become a Black Belt life is perfect and all your worries are over! However, that is not the case, and actually I am glad it isn’t; how boring would life be without any challenges? In many ways, life may actually be harder for a Black Belt, since they weigh the impact of all of their actions. They would not allow themselves to overindulge in their favorite food or video game, but instead strive to make each day productive.
While the Black Belt lifestyle may present as many (if not more) challenges than the average lifestyle, the Black Belt is well equipped to deal with such challenges when they do occur. The Black Belt has learned that with hard work and persistence they can overcome obstacles and achieve goals.
As an instructor, I believe one of the most important aspects of teaching is challenging our students to think about the impact of their actions. I want them asking questions like, “Should I eat this, or that?” “No one saw me break the lamp, should I blame it on the dog? Why or why not?” “There is a student at school sitting alone at the lunch table, should I ask him or her to join us? Why?”
The Black Belt does not wander through life being led solely by base desire and instinct. The Black Belt constantly asks him or herself how his or her actions will affect their own lives, as well as those of others.
I look at our students and see the epitome of what a Black Belt means to me. Our Black Belts that are working toward their Second Degree Black Belts exemplify the characteristics I’ve mentioned above in their words and deeds. Even many of our students that are working towards their first Black Belt are already demonstrating Black Belt excellence in their techniques and interactions with others. Of course, each one is different, but each one now sees life through “Black Belt eyes,” with a deep belief in their own ability to achieve their goals.