Earning Your Black Belt

This is copied from a posting on FB from Tom Callos, a BBJ instructor and educator.

Great article about how much more to being a “black belt” really is and how a true rank of black belt in martial arts should start the second they walk out the door into our community.

Enjoy… Looking forward to some feed back and responces.

A Note on Black Belt Testing for Those Testing With Me –and to All School Owners, Should They Care to Listen

In general, earning a black belt has, in my opinion, become a joke in the martial arts world. In BJJ — no, earning a black belt …is still one major physical and mental-endurance feat; but in far too many karate or taekwondo or what have you schools, with 7, 11, and 13 year old 1st, 2nd, and 3rd dans, with schools where the adult black belts eat, look, and train like they don’t eat well, look like athletes, or train with the fire and passion we might associate with this once presumably-prestigious sign of commitment, the standards have gone to a place where you have to wonder what the Sam-hell their instructors were thinking.

It’s almost as if some billing service folks set the standards for the martial arts world –and set them lower and lower and lower every year…until it’s all come to be a slim shadow of the potential the effort and rank could and should represent, if we only held ourselves to a set of standards that made sense.

There are exceptions, of course. There are instructors whose standards set the mark for everyone, thank God. They’re simply few and far between, today.

So, if you’re testing in this coming test –or the next, here are some basic instructions and guidelines. And note: Testing for your black belt is not an event, an occurrence, or a date in the distant future, testing for your black belt is an on-going dialogue; an ongoing dialogue between you and your potential, you and others who live in the same world you do, yet live lives of extraordinary service and compassion and accomplishment —and you and everything easy, common, and less than your best effort.

Testing for a black belt could and should be like living life, in general. We (you, me) get the same tools, for the most part, as everyone else. We’ve all got xx amount of time here. Some folks use that time to live, to create, to stretch boundaries, to stand up against injustice, to reject the dishonest, and to appreciate the magic of the present moment –and some people seem to be about other things…all of various degrees of genius, marvel, wonder, apathy, triviality, and self-destructiveness.

For your black belt test, you have to force yourself to rise. To rise as an athlete; to rise as a thinker; as a doer; as a helper; as a participant; as a creative; as a man or woman of compassion; as a healer; as a team member; and as a citizen-teacher. Why? Because it’s in the realm of your potential.

And let me tell you right here and now, even the TOUGHEST black belt testing processes in the world, in BJJ and any style, even the best of the best of the best programs, haven’t even begun to tap into what it is that we could do, be, and stand for. Where are the black belts who are winning The MacArthur Fellowship or The Nobel Peace Prize? Where in the industry have the geniuses gathered to address the most pressing issues of our time –and where are the prestigious educational training programs that will lift our black belts from gi-grabbing kickers, fighters, and boxers, to men and women that represent the best of what dedicated, disciplined, focused individuals can be?

We grimace and pose for the cameras, we sell Master Club programs, we infer we are so many things we have no evidence to back, and we allow hucksters and opportunists to sell their crap at our events.

If you’re going to be a black belt with me, then you’re going to have to try, to the best of your ability, to represent all that is healthy, smart, and right about what we do. You’re going to have to leave a trail of evidence that your journey is about something other than narcissism. I want heroes. I want to can the dominant paradigm. I want humble, compassionate, engaged, aware, and fearless black belts, who people can look to for inspiration, even if only in magnificent failure.

Saying all of this is so much torture to me, as it seems kind of impossible to ask so much of myself and others, to set ourselves up for what is potentially a grand level of failure to achieve, and to criticize –so openly –the way things are. Well my friends, a black belt test should probably put you right through the bloody test of fire, the one you’re not sure you’ll survive. If we had a little more of that, not just on a physical level, but about all the things a black belt might be that don’t have much to do with striking or fighting, what would we then be and do? What would we then stand for?