For the last 25 years I have been teaching Karate. Many things have changed over those years but it seems everyone is in a hurry to get a black belt these days. When I began training 38 years ago the goals of training were much different than today. A black belt was not seen as a goal but rather a purpose of the training. The goals were to become adept at the skills and abilities being taught in the dojo, not getting belts. Belts came as you became more confident, more skilled and more dedicated to training. This is why people who earned black belts back in the “old school” days were very dangerous and capable people in comparison to some today who are not even capable of running around the block without being worn out.
Today everyone wants to go through their training like a check off list. They learn a Kata and immediately want to check it off. They get some self defense techniques and immediately want to check it off the list. They learn some kihon (basics) and immediately want to check them off the list. Checking things off and truly knowing them are not the same thing. In Karate we are suppose to learn patience and discipline. We are not supposed to learn how to go through something and check it off a list. Just checking an item off a list doesn’t mean you understand it. It just means you can repeat it.
I have watched many students get upset when they are corrected after they have learned something because it means more work is needed to perfect the item being looked at. Just because you can walk through a Kata doesn’t mean you know the Kata. The goal in true Karate is to train consistently so you will completely understand the style you study inside and out. It is a manner where you just keep moving forward. It is not like reading a book and putting it on the shelf just to say you read it. I meet many people who are exactly like that these days. They took Karate, they got a black belt and now it is just displayed on their wall in their home as if it was a great accomplishment but the real accomplishment is to train for your entire life, not getting a belt or certificate. The certificate and belt don’t mean anything if you give up and stop training. It just becomes another collectible item on your shelf.
Don’t be in a rush in your training. Be like the turtle, ever moving forward, always improving and just enjoying the trip. The destination will be a better life, a better you (physically, mentally and spiritually). How fast you get there has no bearing on anything…it is the amount of sweat, hard work, time in the dojo and truly understanding your art. Many schools out there today push students to black belt as the “ultimate” goal. The black belt is just another step in the journey to truly improving your life through the training. It doesn’t mean you are good at your Karate or qualified to teach others at all. It just means you now know the basics and can truly begin learning all the incredible things your art has to offer you. It is a journey towards a destination, not a trip to a location.
Study your art, don’t be quick to check things off your curriculum / belt requirements list and truly learn about what mastery is. Anyone can earn a black belt but a good student wants to learn everything about their art…not just get belts. Be a good student, train as a way of improving your life and learn to just keep moving forward in your Karate. Stop focusing on the wrong things in your training and start focusing on just enjoying being in the dojo, gaining new skills and perfecting old ones. That is where the true magic of Karate training exists…