The 5 Traits of Black Belt Excellence

Happy but not satisfied.

There is an old Zen proverb that says; “Before enlightenment – chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment – chop wood and carry water.” This can be interpreted to mean that one should have a goal, to be constantly striving toward, but don’t concentrate so much on the goal that you forget the path. Black Belts learn to challenge themselves every day in every way.

Compare yourself, not to others, but to your own potential.

Comparison of self to others can make one feel either incompetent or overconfident. Not every Black Belt is equal in skill. In fact, all students are dissimilar in skill level. Although there is a certain level of skill required to progress to a new rank, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Comparing yourself to your potential helps you to set realistic goals and not to expect too much or demand too little from your training. Therefore, comparison to our own potential is the only comparison that generates reliable feedback.

Stay focused.

As the saying goes, “Lose control of your emotions in a fight and your opponent has an ally!” Every emotion has an appropriate time and place. There is a time to be stern and a time to be compassionate. If we become overly emotional, or if we mix these times and places up, we lose our ability to act appropriately. If, however, we are able to respond with the appropriate emotion, at the appropriate time, with the appropriate intensity, then we will have the best possible experience. Students with Black Belt focus strive to “stay in the moment” each day in class.

Develop self-discipline.

A disciplined person is a person who knows what to do and then does it. Someone without self-discipline knows what he/she should do, but just doesn’t get around to doing it. Discipline, like a muscle, is developed with use. In martial arts, students are encouraged to work through difficult movements. As the students gradually progress up the belt ranks, they develop the ability to push themselves, while maintaining their focus and concentration, knowing that this is what it takes to become proficient.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

The philosophies taught in martial arts require that students look for the good in every situation, and make the most out of it. While training, everyone experiences occasional setbacks, i.e. busy schedules, difficult maneuvers, sore muscles, etc. Instead of saying; “Why is this happening to me?”, they say, “What is good about this, and how can it benefit me?” With this attitude everything becomes a learning experience, and students are able to cope with the day-to-day challenges that are life’s rewards.

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