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An article for the Goju Hall #25 Newsletter - Circa 1994
YOU SAY YOU'RE A BLACK BELT...DO YOU MEASURE UP?
Last March, Master Lasorsa wrote an excellent article entitled: "Now I am Black belt, What Next?" This article will follow that theme, and focus on the obligations and responsibilities of being a Goju Black belt.
I'm constantly amazed at student's behavior. I see students (over time) develop this gut-burn drive for excellence in their training, to be the best that they can be in their karate, because they are focused on that one single goal.
These students finally do earn that black belt, and now they are prepared. They now have this excellence, they have these tools... now they can go on to really develop themselves. But guess what!... they just peter out... and you don't see them again. Why does this happen? They lacked vision. Their rank got in their way, they failed to understand that the new belt that was tied around their waist, was just a belt that happened to be black, which represented the true beginning, and not the end of their training.
I've always considered the kyu levels to be like high school, and then you graduate from high school, you get your black belt, and you get accepted into college.
Well, college is a whole new road, with years and years of study to really develop yourself. You have the tools to really be what you can be. Now black belt is where those tools will help you polish your karate. You know, I think too, that so many students who study the martial arts are just focused on the physical plane of kata, fighting, and self defense. Karate has to be mental; it has to be inside you. Maybe that's why there are so few Nidans, Sandans, and Yondans in our karate system.
How can you (especially you Shodans) not become a drop out statistic? If you haven't started already, start reading. Broaden your knowledge of the martial arts, and expand these experiences and your own karate experiences, into your daily life. When you are nervous before a presentation, practice your Goju breathing. Practice your focus developed in your fighting and kata prior to a difficult task that you have to perform at your job, and use your softness with your family and your friends.
At a recent weapons seminar I observed a new Shodan who came to the class out of uniform, with no apparent intention of taking a course or helping with the seminar. Was this new Shodan finished with training now that the most coveted Black belt was obtained? Always remember, your actions speak much louder than your words.
While speaking to an old gentleman one day, I asked him if he was a physician. He said: "No! I was a doctor, but now I am retired." This man had a clear image of himself, and although he had spent many years in training, and many years in practice, he wasn't practicing anymore, and didn't keep current, and keep up with his medicine, so he couldn't call himself a doctor any more. His skill levels weren't there anymore to save and to treat and to heal.
How many of you who don't really train anymore, would have the guts to say that about your karate?
This same analogy would apply to those of you who have passed away (so to speak) in your black belt training. I don't believe that you can be a black belt, or even call yourself a black belt, if you are not training as one.
A clear and perfect example of this Black belt in training analogy exists in our very own dojo. Why are Masters Brown, Darboro, and Lasorsa so awesome? Are they that much more physically and mentally superior than the rest of us? They would be the first to say, "NO WAY!" Why are these three black belts so good? They are consistent, they continue to train, they continue to teach, and they continue to practice and improve themselves, and expect the same from their students!
It is first and foremost that you develop your karate for you! Practice your karate, and interject those cerebral elements of the martial arts that can help you improve your life.
As a black belt in USA Goju, It is your obligation, to insure that the black belts of the future, develop and mature, and even exceed your abilities and your expectations. Remember that the white belt is the blood of karate, and it is your responsibility to develop that white belt, and continue to pass on the Goju legacy.
Here is a black belt health check list. Go down this checklist and see how you score!
1. Do you edify your fellow black belts, and your teachers? (Do you always speak highly of these people?)
2. Are you up to date with your dues to your teacher and to Master Kelljchian?
3 Do you support your dojo by helping teach a class at least once a week?
4. Do you make the sacrifice and attend the weapons seminars, shiai's, and fund raisers?
5. Do you practice a kata every day?
6. Do you keep yourself physically fit with aerobic cardiovascular exercises?
7. Do you read at least one martial arts book or article a month? (There are literally thousands of books that can enrich and enhance your life.)
8. If you attended the Christmas party, do you know the Imperial Oar kata that Master Kelljchian taught you? Can you perform it as fluidly as Empi-ha? (I can assure you that the Yondans know this kata!)
9. Do you practice patients and humility on a daily basis?
10. Are you setting the example for your students that your teacher set for you?
How did you score?
Remember, be selfish, do this for you, be the best black belt that you can be, and the best person that you can be as well.
Sensei James Price, 4o