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Earning a Black Belt

Many ask that question upon joining a dojo, "When will I earn a Black Belt?" and "How long will it take to earn a Black Belt?". In the old days if one asked this question most likely the Sensei would respond, "Five years." and the student might respond, "What if I train twice as hard?" and Sensei would then respond, "Ten years." and the student would respond, "What if I work day and night every day?" and Sensei would respond, "Then it would take you the rest of your life.

In today's world most perspective students would just scoff and walk out the door looking for someone who would respond in a manner that suits their ego and desires.

So, this brings us to the next question, "When do you get a black belt?". You find a competent teacher and a good school, begin your training and work hard. Someday - who knows when - it will come. When a student comes to realize that a black belt is not as important as practice itself then they may be approaching a black belt. When they realize that no matter how hard or long you practice and train it takes a life time of practice and study, until you die, to be a Martial Artist. Then they are approaching a black belt.

A student must also realize that their initial training is very important in reaching the level of black belt. That training determines how you will eventually turn out as a black belt. It is said, "Train hard!" which is easy to say yet very hard to do.

The first level of black belt is referred to in Japanese as "Sho Dan". It means first level or as I like to say it means you are finally a student of karate-do. Sho (first) is comprised of two radicals that mean "cloth" and "knife". It means to make a piece of clothing you must first create the pattern and then cut out that pattern. The pattern, comprised of that initial training, determines the style and look of a finished product. If the pattern is out of proportion or in error the clothes will not fit and will look terrible.

What should a student focus on if not attaining the black belt? They must focus on the energy they put into their practice. They must concentrate on their training with out regard to anything else. To achieve the level of black belt is not a quantitative which is measured or weighed like buying fruit in a grocery store. Your black belt has a great deal to do with you as a person; how you conduct yourself both in and outside of training, your attitude, your goals in life, how you handle obstructions in life, and how you persevere in practice are the important conditions of your black belt.

Practice has nothing to do with your belt yet it has everything to do with life and death. 

"Life and Death, same thing" - unknown. 

A black belt must become their true self. Practice leads to enlightenment into the nature of your true self.

When you give up all thoughts of rank, trophies, fame, money and mastery itself and become humble, gentle and you put others before yourself; when you study your true self you realize it has nothing to do with rank.

"To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to understand all things." - Zen Master 

“When you make Shodan, you are like a baby just beginning to opening your eyes” ~Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei explaining the levels of “Dan”