Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What it means to be a black belt

First off, a quick update on Scooter Polo. I was talking with friends and we decided that the "ball" would need to be something that did not roll easily, but could still be hit easily by the mallets. I proposed a block of wood, but I'm only half serious. The sport would look silly enough without a doorstop being the object of focus. We might as well paint it pink with glorious polka dots while we're at it.

Anyways, I will be testing for my black belt this Friday and I'm feeling a mixture of anticipation and jitteriness that everyone seems to get whenever they're put on the spot to perform. Typically this test is accompanied with an essay, but that hasn't been done for the last few tests. Still, I always liked the idea and thought that it is worthwhile to reflect on past training and lessons learned and what my accomplishment (I fully intend to pass) will mean.

The test won't be easy, that is my most sincere hope. If I breeze through it, then it will lessen the meaning behind the accomplishment. Black belt is meant to be something that not everyone can achieve. It requires massive amounts of hard work and dedication, among other things. I have been training in kickboxing since I was 15 (I'm 23 now), with a few years break in my grade 11 and 12 years. I also dabbled in BJJ for a few years, but it was all at the same school.

Black belt is kind of like a club. It is definitely not the end of a long journey, but rather a recognition that a person has achieved something. Aside from all the physical elements, it is character that is judged. When people think of martial artist, black belts especially, they see a very peaceful person who is very virtuous. Even in movies, the martial artist is typically a reluctant fighter, being forced to defend what is right. My sensei has often said that if everyone in the world were true martial artists, then the world would be a very peaceful place.

I suppose another way of saying this is that those without martial arts training are lacking confidence and security and usually suffer from some sort of inferiority complex that drives them to be aggressive and confrontational. I should clarify that this is not to say that everyone is like that. Martial arts training offers many opportunities for people to take on daunting challenges and succeed. This process of taking on difficult tasks and overcoming obstacles builds character and this process can exist in other things, such as music, sports, or studies. Those that rarely get the chance to shine in their own mind are those that eventually fall prey to deadly sins.

However, this doesn't explain things like world leaders seeking out wars or similar events occurring in recent or past history. One of the things that I feel other activities lack is a distinct opportunity to show respect and feel humility. In martial arts, which is riddled with traditions, every tiny action helps to mold the martial artist into a better person. Bowing and responding to the instructor shows respect, almost all schools have students bow to the school and their training area to show respect to inanimate things. Some even have students clean the floor of the school. In terms of humility, even now I am learning new things, sometimes from those lower ranked than myself. And, indeed, I also bow to my students when I teach. Respect and humility, in some ways, go hand in hand.

A fit body is a fit mind, usually. Martial arts is focused around the physical aspect a lot. Martial artists learn to become detailed oriented and show perseverance in long, repetitive practices. In sparring, we apply all of our technique in a very realistic fight, the only difference being the padding and the control. We learn to exercise our mind as well as our bodies, which leads to us considering other options before throwing up our fists.

There really isn't enough I can say about martial arts. In becoming a black belt, I can only reflect upon the person I was and the person I have become. Certainly, many of the changes and improvements of my person can be attributed solely to myself. But then again, that's basically martial arts as well isn't it? As we are doing the training not for others, but for ourselves. The school and the instructors are only guides, it is up to the individual to become the "black belt". This would account for the people who practice martial arts but may not be to standard on the personality scale.

Wish me luck this Friday. If you are in town, the testing is at 6pm at Cobra Kai in Burnaby.

No comments:

Post a Comment