It reminded me of Sue C's excellent post called The Black Belt Paradox where she makes the following observation:
When I look at who it is that tells me it’s not about the black belt or that we don’t need coloured belts, I realise that they are all (no dis-respect is meant here) – black belts! It seems to me one needs to acquire the wisdom and experience of a black belt to realise that getting the black belt is not important and only really represents the beginning. I can ‘know’ this but it remains precisely that – knowledge, not wisdom. I have to go through the process myself of converting this knowledge into wisdom through practice, learning and experience and to help me do this I need my belts, all of them! I call this the Black Belt Paradox – you need to acquire a black belt in order to truly understand that ‘it’s not about the black belt’.
Sue is right. There are things I only understood after I earned a black belt. Here are a few:
1. Black belt is the beginning. The kyu rank students in our dojo hear this statement a lot. We tell the students how much more there is to learn and study.
2. Black belt kata are those kata that come later in the syllabus. I remember learning a "black belt kata" when I was a new brown belt. I learned the pattern to Passai at a seminar. I thought it was cool that I knew the pattern to a "black belt kata". I didn't realize at the time I didn't really "know" it. I could move through a sequence of movements. Turns out it wasn't so cool because I should have been focused on my current material. We do not try to let students get too far ahead with their material. As a kyu rank it is tempting to want to learn "new" and "more". There is simply too much material that needs to be learned before shodan.
3. The use of the word "Know". After I tested for black belt, I realized how little I actually knew. This feeling hit me the moment I tied my black belt around my waist. We test for shodan at the Federation training camp. The guest instructors are dojo heads, karate federation leaders, war heroes and authors. They are people who have been training 30-40 years. And there I was with a shiny black belt and three years of training. I have been a black belt for almost 15 years (in July 2011) and I still feel the same way. The amount of information to "know" is incredibly overwhelming. There is a lifetime of learning.
4. Black belts are students too. I never gave this much thought as a kyu rank. As a black belt student, I am still learning, exploring and discovering.
5. A black belt brings responsibility. I remember thinking a kyu rank student might ask me a question and expect the correct answer. What if I did not know the answer? I found out it is ok not to know the answer and it is an excellent opportunity to search/learn the answer. The new shodan I wrote about early in the post let me know how he makes sure he is in correct stance during class. He noticed the new white belts watching him and wants to be a good example.
6. Your karate changes as you age. It becomes more about technique, function and conservation of motion.
7. You need to make the kata your own.
8. Basics are awesome!
I am sure there are more. The above list represents a few of the things I only understood after I was a black belt.
And it is still a work in progress....