What is a black belt?

A black belt is not the end of a journey, a black belt is not a master of an art, a black belt is not an instructor…so what exactly is a black belt and what does it mean to be one?

You’ve heard it countless times, “So and so is a black belt in insert art here,” but there’s so many misconceptions, that I could write an entire book just dispelling them all. So here are the bare bones facts;

Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo invented the system of belts used today, so that during competitions and sparring matches, he could match students on even footing, beginners vs. beginners, intermediate vs. intermediate, advanced vs. advanced and so on.

Since then, the belt system has evolved, as have the meaning and uses of belts in the martial arts. Every system uses it’s own colors, stripes, degree system etc.. for their belts, some with a few belts, some with many. In all martial arts, a white belt is a beginner and a black belt is someone who is advanced, those are the shared commonalities between all systems.

A black belt is someone who understands and has mastered the basics of a martial art and who is now seeking to perfect their art. When someone earns their black belt, it is truly just the beginning of their journey, sort of like finding the path and now having to walk it. Like a mechanic, who learns all of their tools and what they do and can now learn to put them all to use.

Once an individual earns a black belt, their martial path is paved with many opportunities, from becoming an instructor to simply growing as a martial artist, to competition, the skies are the limits. I have to say this however, the black belt is just a strip of cloth, the martial artist is what makes it special and gives it meaning. More so than earning a black belt, BEING a black belt is triple the importance!

To truly BE a black belt, comes with time and dedication, hard work and developing your mind, body and spirit. Being a black belt cannot easily be explained, because one must experience it for themselves and learn the lessons, which only character building, perseverance and inner strength provides.


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