(Adapted from an Article by “American Black Belt Academy”)
Having the “Black Belt Attitude” means developing the understanding that being a Martial Artist, especially a Black Belt, is not just something you do; it’s something you become.
You started your Martial Arts Programs for your own reasons, and you’ll stay with it because of what you learn. You know there’s no way to just walk in and get a black belt in a few months because of how much work is involved. Even more importantly, instead of teaching you to fight, your class is about learning how not to fight unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The root of Martial Arts, “Martial,” means warrior-based or military, and “Arts” relates to creativity, tradition, learning, and excellence. So, why don’t all students who take Martial Arts earn their black belts? Learning to keep going is 80% mental, which is why Black Belt Attitude is so important. It’s essential to understand that Black Belt Attitude does NOT start at Black Belt. From the very first lesson, Black Belt Attitude should be explained to each student and then demonstrated at all times by all students and instructors. Students usually start to understand the meaning of Black Belt Attitude after about a year of training, some “get it” much earlier, and others figure it out later. Your instructors will spend a lot of time making sur you understand how to meet the school’s expectations before testing for Black Belt. You need the proper attitude to have a strong Black Belt test. Having the correct attitude about what the Black Belt actually is helps you achieve your goal and helps you stay connected to the journey.
Black Belt Attitude starts and ends with respect for self and others, respect for the Black Belt Instructors, and respect for the school.
Respect for self
Come to every class on time with a clean uniform and belt, ready to participate and stay present during the entire class. Try your best and give 100% during each and every class. Take your training seriously, dig deep, and try even harder when the training gets tough.
Respect for others
This goes far beyond the training hall. Show respect for others by using words like, “thank you” and, “you’re welcome.” Call people, “Ma’am” and, “Sir” and mean it. Try to help others whenever possible and listen when others are trying to pass along knowledge. Showing respect for others is in our creed: “I will develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others.” Treating all people as you want to be treated goes for both adults and children. Children must learn early on to respect those above them and those in authority.
Respect for Black Belt Instructors
More than what’s expected in the Martial Arts training environment, we all have teachers, mentors, and people we learn from. In Martial Arts, we’re taught to respect the rank, so if you don’t or can’t show respect for your Black Belt Instructors, then wherever you are training is not right for you. Instructors spend many years perfecting their craft and then passing it along to their students, so if you’re being taught as part of a school, then you’re expected to show respect for your training. We show respect inside the dojo so that we get in the habit of showing respect to those outside. Bowing when entering, using terms like, “Yes Ma’am” or “Yes Sir,” and doing what you’re asked aren’t to boost the instructor’s ego or make the students subservient. We should respect and be grateful to those who bring good things into our lives. Respect is also a two-way street, so Black Belts should show respect to their students, calling them by name or using terms such as, “Ma’am” and “Sir.” Respect is always given to the belt, whether you like the person wearing it or not. Respect for the belt is to be given.
Respect for your school
Respecting your school comes in many forms, like helping the teachers and by recruiting new students. You should never do anything that puts your school in a bad light. Fighting outside of school is disrespectful, as is taking what you learn at school and showing or teaching others without your instructor’s permission. Remember that no matter where your class meets, it’s more than just a place where people go to learn stuff; it’s a living, breathing organization where knowledge is passed to the next generation and everyone can enjoy the camaraderie of learning together. Your Martial Arts school can be supported by respect or weakened by disrespect.
Another part of Black Belt Attitude that’s important to the success of your Martial Arts training is trust. Your instructor’s responsibility as a Martial Artist is to train people, give them confidence, and show them a path toward individual growth and personal protection. Even though sports can teach things like confidence, teamwork, and body mechanics, one thing missing in sports training is knowing that if it comes to it, you have the skills to protect yourself. This does not mean knowing how to fight, because of the many levels of protection, the first is awareness. Your instructors are training you to be aware and to react when situations happen. Preparing for a Black Belt test can be intense, so you may be placed in uncomfortable situations so you can learn to keep going no matter what.
Trust is huge here. You need to be able to trust that your Black Belt Instructors understand what they’re doing and have your best interests at heart. Your school has been training and testing students the same way for many years, and your black belt test is one of the most demanding tests anywhere. If you’re unable to finish, then you’ll have to test again. This may sound unfair, but if you’re ever in a life-or-death situation and have to fight your way out, it’s important to know that you can do what it takes and keep fighting when your body says, “enough.”
Black Belt Attitude is real and can be measured every day, in how you act as a student, both inside and outside of the gym. It can be measured in how you behave and speak among your peers and with those both above and below you. It can be measured in how, when, and with whom you train. It’s about how you treat others, yourself, your instructors, and your school. Attitude and character come out most when no one’s looking as well as when people are put in difficult and scary situations. It’s easy to spot students who are ready for the next step. It’s harder with students who’ve put in their time and still don’t understand the “why” behind it.
Earning your Black Belt is not a set of boxes to be checked off or a set of requirements, kicks, or techniques. Your Black Belt is not the result of an essay, a test, or a board break. Being a Black Belt is a mindset, one of respect, trust, and constant improvement. If you understand these ideas and are willing to live up to them, then train hard, learn well, and you can look forward to someday seeing a Black Belt around your waist. Then you’ll know that a Black Belt is not just something you wear; it’s something you are.