What is a Black Belt?

What does it mean to be a Black Belt? The obvious is that you have achieved a level of proficiency in martial arts. You have climbed to such a level that the other black belts around you have decided to let you into their brotherhood. They honor you the moment your teacher stands in front of you and holds out your black belt, then says the words Mr XXXX congratulations, we bestow on you the level of sho dan black belt. Those words and that day will stick in your heart for the rest of your life.

But what does it really mean? What does becoming a black belt do to a person? What is a black belt. A black belt is many things. A martial artist. A teacher. A warrior. A mentor. A philosopher. It is so much more than the ceremonial belt that you wear around your waist. Let’s face it, Elvis Presley was a “black belt”. You can order one off the internet for around $20.00 USD. You can put it on and walk around calling yourself a black belt, but does that make you a black belt? No. In fact being a black belt starts in your heart, in your mind, and the way you live your life.

The pride in being a black belt is reflected in the way you present yourself and the way you choose to live your life. Your self confidence and self reliance. The fact that you will never say the words “I give up.” You know that there is honor in winning a fight as well as there is a way to lose a fight with honor. A black belt is a shining example of what other people want to become.

A black belt has the physical ability to destroy another human being. Also a black belt can take a broken human being and fill them with knowledge, strength, and confidence. As a black belt you have to opportunity and the honor to teach students and shape their bodies and their lives. It is a huge responsibility and as a black belt we have to live up to this honor and perform our duty both inside and outside the dojo.

Martial arts started in ancient times and has evolved through out the ages. As a black belt we have to continue to strive to improve our art, techniques, create new techniques, integrate methods and techniques from other styles. We have to help our art grow, and we have to grow with it. We do not become complacent and we strive to make ourselves better.
You have to ask yourself, “Did I do that hold the right way?” “Can I improve that combination?” “How can I make my stance more solid?” “Is my kick folding the correct way? What If I did it this way?” “What if I took that move and combined it with this one?” These questions challenge us. They make us better martial artists.

As a black belt you have to develop observation and teaching skills as well. We watch other black belts train. We ask questions, we learn. There will also be opportunities to help our students. If you see a student cutting corners, or you see the beginnings of a bad habit, we can step in and offer advice and examples to help mold the student into a better martial artist.

A black belt is also a leader. Not only in the dojo but also in their communities. As a black belt you have self confidence and that can help other people, especially ones in need, find their self confidence. A black belt is an expert of making split second decisions and thinking calmly under pressure. These are leadership traits. You can lead by example, and show people what will power and dedication can produce.
Being a black belt means that you have above average proficiency in fighting skills. A black belt would never use that skill to victimize or bully another person. That being said, a black belt would not stand by and let someone else do it either. As a warrior it is our duty to protect our neighbors and the people around us. We are a force for good in the world.

The road to becoming a black belt is a hard one. But it is one that has so many benefits. It is truly something to be proud of and it will affect every aspect of your life. Remeber to honor the ones that went before you with your actions and develop the next generation with your knowledge and your example inside and outside the dojo.

About the Author

Jeremy Deschner

Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do from the Texas Karate Institute, and Host of Pancrase Radio Podcast. Commentator for Pancrase MMA on UFC FIghtPass. Now training in Brazilian Jiujitsu in Japan.
Pancrase Radio Podcast is available on Stitcher and ITunes.
Twitter: @mmajpn1 @jiujitsu_Jedi @PancraseRadio