I really like the following quote… “Those on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” I think of the climbers who attempt to scale Mt. Everest. They don’t just go out and do it…they have to exercise to condition their bodies. They climb smaller peaks to acclimate to altitude. They prepare for weeks, months, sometimes years for the moment when they will stand on top of the world. In other words they had to WORK FOR IT. The process of training was fraught with challenge and difficulty…sometimes even pain…then they tackle Everest itself. There are several “camps” to reach before they reach the summit, each higher with more difficult terrain to deal with….and yet when the summit is reached IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!
And yet, in the end it is not the fact that they reached the top that is most important. Yes, climbing to the top of Mt. Everest is an admirable accomplishment. Can you imagine what it would be like to literally sit on top of the world. However, what makes reaching the top so satisfying is what it took to get there.
The same can be said of Black Belt..
You come into AKKA and take your first lesson. You feel energized and excited about this new thing you have begun. Maybe you have always wanted to take lessons. Maybe you thought it would be something fun to try. Whatever your reason…you started.
You go through your first months of training and things go well. You meet new people and make some friends. You are learning a beautiful martial art and getting in shape to boot. You decide you want to take lessons more than twice per week to get more practice. You are at the school 3-4 times per week. All in all you are having FUN You get your Gold Belt. WOW! You are doing great! You keep going. You move on to Orange. The moves get a bit harder, the katas longer…yet you are still excited about your training. Now you move on to Purple and Blue. You have been around about a year and are getting well into the routine of training. Then something happens. You change jobs, or lose your job. You get married, have a child. You get divorced or break up with your significant other. Your body starts to ache. You get older. School gets tougher or you are involved in more activities outside the home. You may even decide to go back to school. Whatever the specifics of your situation…LIFE HAPPENS! All of a sudden, you miss some classes here and there. Before long you may be away from the dojo for a week or two. Or a month or so. Your interest in training lessens. But, you keep going. Somehow you scratch your way through to begin Green Belt, all the while keeping your eyes on the goal…Black Belt. You are midway through the system when you run right smack into Chinese Hands. For some this is an obstacle…for others it is a rite of passage…for all, it is a challenge. You are no longer a beginner. Now your instructor is expecting you to perform at a higher level. Now you have to think about sparring, the moves continue to get more difficult and it seems tough to get this belt down while maintaining all of your previous material. Life is still happening and yet…you keep going.
You get your Green Belt…now you are excited because here comes 3 Brown. Your first weapons kata. The first time you learn a technique against a weapon attack. The last time you have to wear a “color belt”. Brown is the Expert Level…you are on your way. Your passion re-ignites and you are re-motivated around your training. It does not matter that life is still happening….you keep going. Now you are working on 2 Brown. Long 5 Kata is loooooong. You move on to Sword and another chart of moves. You are training, yet your excitement level may have lessened….after all…Black Belt is still about 2 years away….but, you keep going. You get 2 Brown and now you are working on 1 Brown. Yet another chart of techniques and 2 more katas. Black is still over a year away….yet you keep going. Now you have tested for 1 Brown. Your last test here in Kansas City…ever. Now everything is different. Your focus is sharpened. Your desire to achieve burns hotter than ever because now the light at the end of the tunnel is at least visible. You have a full year to prepare. You are excited about the material for Black Belt. You work hard for the first 3-4 month of studying the chart. You complete the material and then…PFFFFFFFFFT! You have 6-8 months of waiting. The wind has gone out of your sail a little bit. You are not sure you have the patience to wait it out. Life may begin to happen even more now. You wreck your car, kids need braces, its summer and you would rather be outside with your friend than inside taking class. You feel run down, physically, from all of the training you have been doing. Emotionally you may be wrung out from a fight with your spouse or other family issues. About now you have had a minimum of just over 3 years of teaching and you may be at the point where you are not sure you want to complete the training to Black…and yet…you keep going. Finally, it is the Black Belt Test. You are in another state with people from other AKKA schools and you go through the mental skills tests, the technical material evaluation and the physical conditioning. Three days of intensity. You hear your name called. You walk up to the Head Instructor to receive your belt…your Black Belt. You tie it around your waist….YOU DID IT! As you travel back home from the test you reflect on all of the struggles and challenges you had along the way…and somehow they seem less significant now…everything pales in comparison to how you feel with that belt around your waist. You enjoyed the good times and made it through the tough times. All together they add up to create the “journey” of your martial arts experience…which is uniquely invaluable to you and makes the moment of tying that belt around your waist all the richer. In the end, you look back and think to yourself…”It was worth it!”
Now this is just my personal interpretation of what I might call a typical training experience. Some is from my own journey and some I have experienced through my students. Some of you may be experiencing this to a greater or lesser degree depending upon your particular circumstance. The point is that there are challenges along the way and it is not what happens to you but what you do about it. And no matter what happens….YOU KEEP GOING!
So, those of you who have made it to Black Belt…Give yourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. Always remember that the journey keeps going beyond Black.
Those of you who are on your way…keep up the good work and no matter what…KEEP GOING!
Take care and see you in class…