Time for another blog post! In this post I want to share my ideas and thoughts on black belts. By that I mean training for your black belt, training as a black belt and where to progress to after you pass your Dan grading.
I have been pushed towards writing this post after a few conversations I have had with students or parents of students in my various classes. The basis of these conversations was that the student was looking towards the goal of achieving their black belt. Obviously there is nothing at all wrong with that and it is something that I expect all Karate-Ka to aspire to. It is a great milestone to reach, not only in karate but I think in life too (it certainly was for me). The trouble is that some people don't look any further than black belt 1st Dan. In some cases they stop training all together within weeks of passing their grading. Now, it wouldn't be appropriate or fair of me to criticise these people for doing this, that is their choice and I am sure in many of them there are outside factors that have stopped them training but what I hope to get across to you with this post is that black belt is not the end of karate training. To para-phrase Winston Churchill "It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end".
It is often said the to learn karate requires a life long commitment. If we think back to why we started karate this become more obvious. Mostly there are 3 main reasons why people wish to learn karate Fitness, Self Defence and a general interest in the art. If training for fitness then one must assume that those that stop at Shodan think they are fit enough or have changed their mind. If training for self defence then they must (wrongly) assume that they are capable of defending themselves in any given situation and against any opponent and if training out of a general interest in the art of karate then we can only assume that the person feels they have full filled that interest.
If we look at karate training as a purely linear process based on the syllabus we use then black belt 1st Dan is really only just over half way through. In the syllabus I teach we have 27 kata. To pass your black belt you must learn 15 of those kata (although 3 of those will be the non-tokui kata and there fore not necessarily learnt to a good standard). Even based on purely syllabus karate then black belt is a good half-way mark. One thing I hope that all black belts understand though is that karate is not just syllabus based. Some of the best karate we do is not covered at all in our syllabus. It is just not possible to include everything from karate into a set syllabus.
You often hear that you really start to learn how to drive, after you pass your test. Compare that to karate and think about the prospect that you really start to learn karate after you pass black belt.