Black Belt – The Start Not the End of Training
By: Sensei Jacob Hennessey
I have seen many students work very hard for a long time to get the highly coveted black belt and I am sad to say that a majority of them stopped training after getting it. This seems very counter-intuitive to me. It seems a little like prepping everything for an amazing meal, gathering the supplies, marinating the meat, turning on the cooking surface, and never cooking anything. While you are a black belt you learn how to combine all those spices (punches) and veggies (kicks) and bacon (stances), it's not an amazing meal without bacon, to create the masterpiece and only after that, do you get to reap the rewards and eat.
What is the goal for your Martial Arts career?
Is it to earn the right to wear a black belt?
If so, when you get it, is that the end of your training?
Now if you are a chef, I am very sorry about my lack of knowledge but hopefully, it got my point across. I spent 8 years trying to get my black belt, finally proving myself a few days before my 18th birthday. How could I give up something that had been almost a daily part of my life for that long? I couldn't, wouldn't, and didn't want to. That was (2017-2008=?) about 8 years ago now and when I look back I was just barely scratching the surface of understanding how to use all that I had learned and I only had the very "literal translations" (obvious uses). I had no real imagination because I just didn't understand yet.
How do you push through the plateaus of boring repetition with little to no improvement?
The plateaus will come, in no small part, because the black belt is similar to an independent study. Your teacher is there for guidance, but if you are going to progress, it is on you to think about what you already know and apply it to life outside the dojo. The ability to stand in a balanced position, ready to react to anything has more than one application and it is up to you to find them. The better you understand these other applications of basic concepts the more efficiently you can use them both in and out of the dojo. Being a black belt is about being a lifelong learner.